Dendrites - Flowers of Intelligence
These microscope photographs show actual dendrite development. Above, dendrites begin to emerge from a single neuron (brain cell) developing into a cluster of touch points seeking to connect with dendrites from other cells. Below, a pattern of dendrite development shows the increase in density from birth to 3 years.
Scientists estimate that the brain is made up of 100 billion cells. In the human, almost all brain cells are formed before birth.
Dendrites are extensions from the cell. It is through these extensions that information is delivered to and from the cell. The point at which the dendrites from one cell contact the dendrites from another cell is where the miracle of information transfer (communication) occurs.
Brain cells can grow as many as 1 million billion dendrite connections - a universe of touch points. The greater the number of dendrites, the more information that can be processed.
Dendrites grow as a result of stimulation from and interaction with the environment. With limited stimulation there is limited growth. With no stimulation, dendrites actually retreat and disappear.
Research verifies that this ebb and flow of dendrite growth occurs throughout life no matter what the age. Research also reveals that the vast number of dendrite connections, forming what we call intelligence, occur within the first years of life. During this "window of opportunity", if we enrich a child's environment with a vast variety of appropriate, yet challenging stimulation we offer a child the gift of intelligence.