Environmental conditions to promote healthy childhood brain/behavioral development: Informing early preventive interventions for delivery in routine care.

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Abstract:

Environmental experiences early in life have strong and enduring consequences for cognitive, emotional, and neurobiological development and related physical and mental health trajectories. The powerful influence of early caregiver nurturance and stimulation on promoting positive neurodevelopmental outcomes has been demonstrated across species. These findings elucidate the environmental conditions known to facilitate healthy neurodevelopment and underscore the potential for modifiable psychosocial factors in the environment to be harnessed to inform early preventive interventions to promote health and adaptive development. A framework for early preventive interventions to enhance nurturing and responsive caregiving for implementation during early sensitive periods of brain develop- ment delivered within existing health or educational infrastructures is proposed. Emotional development during sensitive periods is an important, under-recognized, and abundantly modifiable predictor of mental and physical health outcomes that warrants investment of resources and integration of interventions into public health infra- structure for children worldwide. Future studies are needed to further clarify whether and when sensitive periods are present for key developmental domains to inform the optimal timing and targets of these interventions. Numerous available empirically supported early interventions may be modified and applied in briefer and more feasible mo- dalities of delivery to broader populations of developing children. As well established in growth and development across species, essential environmental inputs that are particularly important at specified developmental periods facilitate optimal growth trajectories. Such principles hold great potential in application to early child neuro- development to facilitate a thriving and resilient human population.

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