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MNAAP Newsletter

Building Healthy Development for a Lifetime Effect

By Michael Georgieff, MD, FAAP

Every child has a right to optimal cognitive, social and emotional behavioral development. Since behavior is the efferent expression of the brain, medical stakeholders — including pediatricians — have a stake in ensuring brain health across the lifespan. Brain health begins prenatally and likely even pre-conceptionally, implying that the first point of education/prevention may be in non-pregnant women of child-bearing age. Many of the principles of developmental (i.e., fetal) origins of adult metabolic health (obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension) apply to adult health (e.g., depression, anxiety, schizophrenia). Thus, the metabolic and structural brain development that occurs early in life provides a scaffold for complex adult mental capabilities. New brain/behavior assessment tools have allowed identification of important environmental events that promote or pose risks to normal brain development and identify critical and sensitive periods for these environmental effects.

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