A Thriving Brain

You can think of the pruning process a bit like taking care of a rose bush. During development, there is a period of great growth. The connections in the brain are “blooming,” similar to roses in the summer. Following that burst of growth there is a period of pruning. Excess brain connections that we don’t need are cut back, just like spindly rose branches. These extra connections actually hinder brain function. The result of this period of blooming and pruning is a brain – or a rosebush – that is healthy and thriving. Throughout development, there are multiple periods of blooming and pruning. These bursts occur at different times and in different regions across the brain. Scientists think that these bursts of blooming and pruning align with sensitive periods in the brain. Sensitive periods are times when our brain is particularly sensitive to experiences, and open to learning. 

  • Axon
    output fiber of a neuron
    Cell body
    the neuron's processing center
    input fibers of a neuron
    Magnetoencephalography (MEG)
    a non-invasive brain imaging technique used to determine which regions of the brain are active
    cells located in the brain and throughout the body that are specialized to communicate messages
    the process of removing excess synapses
    Sensitive period
    a time in development when the brain is especially ready to learn a skill
    connection point between neurons