Overview of Early Brain Development
In this presentation I will provide an overview of the major developmental milestones of pre- and postnatal brain development. I will begin with the assertion that the initial scaffolding of the brain is provided by various genes and gene networks working in unison, but that postnatally, much of development is dependent on experience. After a brief introduction to embryology, I will turn my attention to describing the stages of brain development, including the formation of the neural tube (Neurulation), the genesis of both neurons and glia, cell migration, cellular differentiation (including both the formation of processes, such as axons, as well as synapses), and myelination. Following this overview, I will turn my attention to the experience-dependent nature of brain development, and will introduce the concepts of experience-expectant development, experience-dependent development, and critical periods. I will conclude with a discussion of how errors in brain development may lead to the development of autism.