Wiring the Nervous System
At birth, a baby’s nervous system has most of its neurons. However, these neurons need to line themselves up into communication pathways, a process known as plasticity. Although genes and other innate factors play a role in this process, it is the influence of the environment that dictates how the brain programs itself. A person’s nervous system wires itself in reaction to the stimuli it encounters in life. This wiring then dictates a child’s behavior patterns, intellectual abilities, and emotional reactions. A child who has experienced a loss early in life, when the brain is in its most active state of development, may design a brain that is programmed for anxiety and stress; the nervous system’s default position is now the fight-or-flight mode. But if fear, pain, and apprehension can be learned, so can love and intimacy. By developing healthy bonds and nurturing healthy relationships, the anxiety and depression roadways have the potential to be re-routed in the plastic brain.