WE ARE OUR BRAINS


DEVELOPMENT, BRITH AND PRENATAL CARE

The subtle interaction between mother and child and birth: both brains need to secrete oxytocin into the bloodstream to make the uterus contract. The mother's biological clock imposes a day - night rhythm, this is why most babies are born at night and in the morning hours, and when childbirth progresses fastest and with least assistance.

When the child accounts of 15% of the mother's metabolism, the mother can no longer provide enough nutrition, and the baby's blood sugar levels drop. The child's hypothalamus responds to this sugar drop in the same way as in adulthood: stimulation of the stress axis. Hormonal changes make the uterus contract, causing the head to press against the cervix. A reflex visa the mother's spinal chord then releases more oxytocin, the baby's head experts more pressure: the baby is born.

Less glucose for the foetus - hypothalamus activates stress axis - adrenal gland is stimulated by ACTH to produce cortisol - this reduces the effect of progesterone from the placenta and causes oestrogen production to increase - the uterus becomes more sensitive to oxytocin - labour starts.

A child with a developmental brain disorder can't fulfil its role during labour. Difficult labour may be a sign of brain disorder.

Anencephalic infants (born with most of their brain missing) are usually born extremely prematurely or overdue, with long labour, highlighting this.

During pregnancy the pituitary gland secretes the hormone prolactin, it prompts nesting behaviour: clean the house, fix the baby's room. Male rates build nests when given prolactin.

In the end of pregnancy both mother and child brains produce oxytocin to induce labour, to boost milk release.

If an epidural is given to offset labour pains, the signal from the cervix doesn't reach the brain, so the oxytocin cycle is broken, therefore the women need to be given oxytocin drips to restore contraction strength.

Oxytocin peaks during brith, which doesn't occur with C-section births, and these mother's brains react less strongly to their child's crying and maternal behaviour.

Playing with the child also causes oxytocin bonding. Children from orphanages don't experience normal oxytocin surges, they may have permanent or long-term bonding impairment.

Oxytocin also inhibits the stress axis and surprises fear, and influences our response to sexual contact, therefore it is called the "love hormone".

Farmers stimulate the sheep's vagina and uterus, causing oxytocin release and the ewe to bond with an orphan lamb.

Vasopressin is responsible for pair bonding and maternal aggression. Men with a tiny variation in a DNA building block for the vasopressin receptor are twice as likely to divorce and be unfaithful. If men are shown a strange man's face after being given vasopressin, they perceive him as unfriendly and more hostile. In women the opposite occurs, vasopressin makes them more likely to approach strangers, and to notice friendly features.

People with autism find it hard to interpret other's emotions and intentions from gestures, facial features or to feel empathy. They might not understand why a child cries, or emotion in a voice. Abnormal levels of oxytocin and vasopressin are found in people with Autism. Also genetic variation in the proteins for vasopressin and oxytocin in the brain. They improve their social behaviour when given oxytocin.

The problem with inhaling sold sprays of oxytocin for example is that you don't know how or if it works at all. These are very delicate systems: the brain produces the tiniest amounts exactly where it needs it. You can't replace the highly specialised functions of nerve cells just by administering their messengers.

Heavy, helpless babies of our ancestors needed the father to protect the mother and the baby. This had an evolutionary advantage: humans could reproduce every 2-3 years, as oppose to chimpanzees, where mothers were solely responsible for the young, and therefore could only reproduce every 6 years.

Fathers to be also produce prolactin, stimulating caring behaviour. Testosterone levels also drop: less aggression towards the child and less urge to procreate. Oxytocin is released in fathers who display affectionate and nurturing behaviour.

A stimulating environment is necessary for brain development. Brains of hares and rabbits grown confined were 15%-30% smaller than the wild ones. When placed in an enriched environment: a large enclosure full of objects that were renewed every day, their brains grew and developed more synapses.

Neglected children have smaller brains: their intelligence and linguistic and fine motor control skills are permanently impaired, they are impulsive and hyperactive.

Orphans adopted before the age of two, develop normal IQs of about 100. Orphans adopted between two and six have IQs of about 80.

The Pope's experiment in which he brought up dozens of children by nurses who were ordered never to speak to them in order to determine God's language: the children didn't speak at all and all died young.

Many children died during WWII because of physical and emotional neglect, or survived psychologically scarred.

The languages heard during the first few years of our life determine the configuration of your brains language system. After a certain period these systems become fixed - which is why we then have accents in other languages.

Between the ages of 9-11 the brain areas that process words and visual information still overlap. In adulthood they are separate.

The Broca's area in the frontal cortex processes our mother tongues. A sub-area of this region processes later-learned languages.

Our linguistic and cultural environment also determines how facial expressions are interpreted.

Stimulation form enriched environments promotes recovery from a developmental disorder - which is why people shouldn't be institutionalised.

A forensic study compared 412 suicide victims who were alcoholics and drug addicts with 2901 people in a control group. A link was made between events around the birth and self-destructive behaviour. Hanging with oxygen deprivation at birth, violent suicides with mechanical brith trauma, drug addition with administration of addictive substances like painkillers during labour.

When a pregnant woman relaxed every time she heard a piece of music, the foetus would start to move as soon as the music started. After birth, the same music would make the child stop crying and open its eyes.

Newborn babies prefer to hear their mother's voice, particularly if it is distorted in the way it would have been in the womb. But TV soap themes can also be registered by babies, and maybe they will become more prone to be addicted to them when grown up. So it is better not to watch TW shows or hear bad music, but to read books, even out loud to the foetus.


THREATS TO THE FOETAL BRAIN IN THE "SAFETY OF THE WOMB"

Our brains develop with incredible rapidity before birth and in the years immediately after. The brain cells grow at different rates and are extremely susceptible to different factors.

Growth is determined by 1)our genetic factors and 2)the activity of the neural cells which in itself depends on:

Availability of nutrients, chemical messengers, growth regulators, hormones.

Lack of nourishment: from hunger, placenta malfunctioning, excessive vomiting by the mother, dieting for weight issues, Ramadan fasting. These all impair the child's mental capacity, increase the risk for schizophrenia, depression and antisocial behaviour.

Iodine deficiency impairs thyroid hormone production: impaired brain and inner ear development.

Heavy metals cause brain disabilities.

DDT, PCBs, dioxins are called environmental disrupters because they disrupt hormonal regulation of sexual differentiation even when there is no chromosomal cause - gender identity and sexual orientation is affected.

Most problems are only small, children seem to be healthy at birth, but then manifest issues later. Smoking women can cause learning difficulties, behavioural and reproductive problems for example.

ALCOHOL

In early development, brain cells are created around the brain cavities. They migrate to the cerebral rotten, where they ripen and sprout tissue to establish contact with other brain cells. This migration can be so severely disrupted by alcohol that cells can end up migrating outside the brain. Alcohol also permanently activates the stress axis, increasing the risk of depression and phobia.

SMOKING

Is the most common cause of neonatal death. Doubles the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Increased risk for premature brith, low birth rate, impaired brain development, disturbed sleep patters, poor school performance, obesity, thyroid function, ADHD, aggressive behaviour, impulsiveness, speech defects, attention problems, impaired testes development.

SLEEP

REM sleep: rats with less REM sleep during comparable-to-human-foetal-development-stages, they had less REM sleep and were more fearful in adulthood. The sex drive in males diminished, they were hyperactive.

Heterotopias: are a group of cells that end up in the wrong part of the brain during their migration to the cerebral cortex.

The brain overproduces cells and synapses. When connections are promoted, they obtain growth substances that make them more active, enabling them to make more and better connections. The cells that fail to do so, die of. Extreme signals form the outside lead to the foetal brain being permanently modified to prepare the child for the outside world.

Nazi occupants of Netherlands during WWII lead to a famine. They babies born then were not only underweight, but more likely to become antisocial and obese later in life: to prefer fatty foods, exercise less. More likely to have HPB, schizophrenia, depression. Their brain was programmed to retain every calorie. Being antisocial they defend their own interests, giving an advantage in times of scarcity. But if they are born into normal surroundings these qualities are not good.

When a mother is stressed, the brain of the female foetus becomes more male and vice versa: a more competitive girl is more likely to survive and so is a less aggressive male.

Longevity is only a very recent accomplishment, it made sense for the foetus to be adapted to the immediate environment it came to.

PAIN TRANSMISSION

1) nerve fibres in the skin

2) along the spinal chord

3) the centre of the brain: the primary sensory cortex, the brain becomes aware of the brain; the thalamus: the cingulate cortex, the brain's alarm centre causes emotional and autonomic responses.

Because these are two separate centres, you can have responses to pain: heart rate, contorted face, movement, without actual awareness of it.

By week 7 of foetal development, the sensory nerves are there, so there will be a physical response to a needle for example, but this doesn't mean it can actually feel pain.

The cortex needs to be mature, and this happens around week 29 or 30.

General anaesthesia is a risk for the mother. If a procedure need to be done on the foetus before week 25-26, it would probably be better not to use anaesthesia because of the risks in brain development.

Body Integrity Identity Disorder: where someone early on is convinced that a part of their body doesn't belong to them and they become desperate to get rid of it, even though it can be fully functioning and healthy. They can get jealous of amputees or paralysed people. They will pretend not to have that limb. They will try to get a doctor to remove it. They can even damage the limb to the point that it has to be removed. They have very precise ideas where from they want the amputation. Scans show their frontal and parietal cortices respond differently to the touch of their two limbs.

This shows a similarity with transsexuality, and in fact 19% of BIID patients have a gender identity problem, and 38% are homosexual or bisexual.


SEXUAL DIFFERENTIATION OF THE BRAIN IN THE WOMB

The simple version: XX=girl and XY=boy. The presence or absence of testosterone makes the child develop into a boy or a girl. In the second half of the pregnancy a testosterone peak will differentiate a boy, fixing our brains and gender identity for life.

JOHN - JOAN - JOHN

John lost his penis from a botched circumcision at 8 months of age, his testicles were removed and they decided to turn him into a girl. He had girls clothes, psychological counselling, was given oestrogen in puberty. The child developed normally as a female. As an adult, Joan had the sex change reversed, married, adopted children, got separated and committed suicide. - his gender identity hadn't changed.

AIS: androgen insensitivity syndrome. The person produces testosterone but their bodies are insensitive to it. Both the external organs and brain are feminized. They become heterosexual women, even though they are XY.

CAH: congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Girls who have been exposed to a high dose of testosterone in the womb and have such a large clitoris they sometimes are registered as boys. They almost always are assigned a female gender, but 2% acquire male gender identity in the womb.

The preference of dolls or cars isn't forced by society, it's programmed in our brains to prepare us for our roles in life, even in monkeys the same choices are made. Girls are prepared for motherhood and boys for fighting and technical tasks.

The peak in testosterone is responsible for this. Girls with CAH are more boisterous and may be called tomboys.

Eye contact between women during negotiations leads to a better outcome, between men it prevents coming to terms. Men also prefer to sit side by side rather than face to face. Side by side is more friendly, as though they are on watch together.

How can homosexuality still be in genes? Heterosexual individuals with the same genes produce a larger-than-average number of offspring, keeping the genes in circulation and this may be a reason.

Girls with CAH are more likely to be bi or homosexual.

The more older brothers a boy has, the greater the chance for him to be homosexual. The mother's immune response to male substances produced becomes stronger with each pregnancy.

Pregnant women suffering from stress release cortisol with affects foetal sex hormone production.

The biological clock is twice as large in homosexual men.

Sexual orientation is determined by many structural and functional brain differences, all of which develop in the womb the second half of pregnancy, and which cannot be changed by the post-birth environment.

Transsexuality: feeling you have been born in the body of the wrong gender. Sex organ differentiation happens in the first months. Brain sexual differentiation happens in the second half of the pregnancy. Since they are separate events, they can be influenced independently of one-another.

BST- bet nucleus of the stria terminals is an area involved in many aspects of social behaviour. It is twice as large in men as women. In transsexuals, it is the opposite.

Sudden pedophilia may have many causes: a brain tumour in the prefrontal cortex, temporal cortex, hypothalamus, it may be a symptom of dementia, brain infections, Parkinsonism, multiple sclerosis, brain trauma, partial removal of the anterior lobe during operations to cure epilepsy.

Deviant sexual behaviour is displayed in 18% of first degree relatives of pedophile men, suggesting it may also be genetic.

There is less grey matter in the hypothalamus, the bed nucleus of the stria terminals, amygdala of pedophiles.

The smaller the amygdala, the more likely to commit pedophilic crimes.


PUBERTY, LOVE, AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

PUBERTY

The pituitary gland starts to produce sex hormones. The annoying behaviour, clashing with family members makes it less likely that reproduction takes place in their own surroundings, reducing the risk of inherited defects. Craving new experiences, readiness for great risks is leaving the nest behaviour. But since the PFC (prefrontal cortex) isn't yet mature, decisions may be bad, thinking about only the short term, and less consideration of negative consequences.

Gene KISS1 initiates puberty: kisspeptins produced in the hypothalamus.

Women must have enough fat to nourish a foetus in order to get pregnant.