Early Brain Research
Although our origin of thinking about early childhood is more intuitive than academic, it is not without scientific support. From before birth to the first day of kindergarten, a child’s mind rapidly constructs the connections and architecture that underlies cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional and motor development. More than 85% of children’s brains – their personalities and their intellects – develop before age five.[1] As children develop, their brains grow bigger and become more complex as neural connections are made between cells. These neural connections build brain architecture that helps children make sense of their worlds, and forms a foundation for later learning, behavior and health.[2]

Brain architecture is built from the influences of genetics and experiences. A child’s genetics control when brain connections are formed, while a child’s experiences determine how that formation evolves. Experiences in the early years can be positive or toxic for brain and physical development. Stress causes the body to respond physiologically, with increased heart rate and blood pressure or elevations in body chemicals. Some short-lived stressful experiences, like meeting new people or dealing with manageable frustration, cause moderate physiological responses and are important and necessary for healthy child growth. Stable, supportive relationships help children respond to and work through stressful situations, and promote the development of a child’s self-mastery and self-control. Some experiences may trigger extensive physiological responses, but can be relieved by stable and supportive relationships that help children adapt, cope and bring stress’ physiological responses back to their normal levels. Recurrent child abuse or neglect, parental substance abuse, or family violence acts as toxic stress for children and may permanently disrupt brain architecture and lead to learning difficulties as well as health-damaging behaviors in the form of both physical illness and mental health problems.[3]

The earliest years of child’s life represent the single greatest chance to make a lasting impact on a child’s future. Wyoming Kids First works to bring together the many people involved in young children’s lives – families, teachers, doctors, care-givers, and others – to ensure that all children have appropriate, positive experiences that promote the development of healthy brain architecture and provide a strong foundation for future learning, behavior and health.

You can dig deeper in the science and research supporting early childhood by clicking any of these links.

Children in Wyoming

Ready Nation’s Wyoming Profile: Check out some quick facts about where Wyoming is at in terms of Early Childhood.

Children build their brains in the first years of life.

Harvard Center on the Developing Child: Harvard’s research on child development, including papers, briefs, videos and more.

Early education opens doors.

High Scope/ Perry Preschool Study: This landmark longitudinal study helped establish the benefits of early childhood education.

Invest now in our kids to build our future.

Wyoming’s Investment in Early Childhood: This Wyoming Kids First research is an estimate of how much Wyoming spent on early childhood during the 2011-2012 biennium.

Heckman Equation: Nobel Prizewinner James Heckman (quoted in this video!) has worked to demonstrate the returns on investment in early childhood.


Everyone has a stake in early childhood issues.

Mission: Readiness: These retired military generals recognize that we must focus on early childhood development as a matter of national security.

Partnership for America’s Economic Success: Business leaders from around the country focus on building a strong future workforce.

[1] National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2000, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

[2] Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2007). A Science-Based Framework for Early Childhood Policy: Using Evidence to Improve Outcomes in Learning, Behavior, and Health for Vulnerable Children.

[3] Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2007). A Science-Based Framework for Early Childhood Policy: Using Evidence to Improve Outcomes in Learning, Behavior, and Health for Vulnerable Children.