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Brain resilience can be key to healthy aging

Dorota Chapko's picture
A man holds his 11-month-old granddaughter. Photo: Allison Kwesell / World Bank


In our previous blog post, we wrote about how getting a good head start in brain development builds the foundation of our cognitive abilities. It puts us in a path towards socio-economic success and makes us more resilient to aging and mid-life adversities. In this post, we’ll discuss how early-life experiences influence the development of socio-emotional abilities and of a more resilient brain, and how this new evidence can help development professionals design cost-effective policies that take into account a person’s human development during his/her lifetime.
 
Optimal brain development can in turn make healthy aging possible. As Jack Shonkoff and colleagues have put it: “Many adult diseases are, in fact, developmental disorders that begin early in life.”

The resilient brain and its crucial role in human development

Dorota Chapko's picture
Young children in Uzbekistan play with mind-stimulating games. Photo: Matluba Mukhamedova / World Bank


​Did you know that investments in early childhood are crucial for achieving the brain’s full developmental potential and resilience?
 
Jim Heckman, Nobel Laureate in economics, and his collaborators have shown that strong foundational skills built in early childhood are crucial for socio-economic success. These foundational skills lead to a self-reinforcing motivation to learn so that “skills beget skills”. This leads to better-paying jobs, healthier lifestyle choices, greater social participation, and more productive societies. Growing research also reveals that these benefits are linked to the important role that early foundations of cognitive and socio-emotional abilities play on healthy brain development across the human lifespan.

Brain complexity –the diversity and complexity of neural pathways and networks— is moulded during childhood and has a lasting impact on the development of cognitive and socio-emotional human abilities.