Nature vs nurture? Where genetics often fail to explain most differences in cognitive development in a satisfactory manner, environmental causes instead show outstanding importance.
A very clear case is breastfeeding, which not only provides the best nutrition for babies but also key emotional support. And new research only emphasizes this.
From Science Daily:
The research found that by age 2, babies who had been breastfed exclusively for at least three months had enhanced development in key parts of the brain compared to children who were fed formula exclusively or who were fed a combination of formula and breastmilk. The extra growth was most pronounced in parts of the brain associated with language, emotional function, and cognition, the research showed.
The study showed that the exclusively breastfed group had the fastest growth in myelinated white matter of the three groups, with the increase in white matter volume becoming substantial by age 2. The group fed both breastmilk and formula had more growth than the exclusively formula-fed group, but less than the breastmilk-only group.
"We're finding the difference [in white matter growth] is on the order of 20 to 30 percent, comparing the breastfed and the non-breastfed kids," said [lead researcher Sean] Deoni. "I think it's astounding that you could have that much difference so early."
Ref. (pay per view): Sean C.L. Deoni, Douglas C. Dean, Irene Piryatinksy, Jonathan O'Muircheartaigh, Nicole Waskiewicz, Katie Lehman, Michelle Han, Holly Dirks. Breastfeeding and early white matter development: A cross-sectional study. NeuroImage, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.05.090