Thursday, September 4, 2014
It astounds me how much brain development takes place in a fetus before a woman even usually knows she is pregnant. This is an important reason why many foods are fortified with folic acid. Folic acid (or folate) is essential in early brain development to the point that in its absence, there can be severe defects (such as spina bifida), but by the time the woman discovers she is pregnant, damage is already done, because it affects the neural tube which has already developed by day 21 of pregnancy!
Quote from the Mayo Clinic:
"Spina bifida is part of a group of birth defects called neural tube defects. The neural tube is the embryonic structure that eventually develops into the baby's brain and spinal cord and the tissues that enclose them.
"Normally, the neural tube forms early in the pregnancy and closes by the 28th day after conception. In babies with spina bifida, a portion of the neural tube fails to develop or close properly, causing defects in the spinal cord and in the bones of the backbone."
The Spina Bifida example serves to show how quickly brain development takes off. This video has an excellent animation of brain development in a human fetus.
A couple other visualizations of the neural plate becoming the neural groove and then neural tube:
Lastly, here's a nice TED talk to get you thinking about infants in a different light. thanks for sharing Claudia Lieberwirth.