Connecting the dots to healthy neurodevelopment
At a young age, our kids are going through an exploratory rollercoaster of learning through everyday experience. They absorb all of the good and bad that their immediate environment provides, developing the most crucial skills needed for life beyond childhood.
In these early stages, it’s imperative that our children have healthy eyesight not only for clear visual experience, but for adequate brain health too.
The brain and eyes are interconnected in much more elaborate ways than we’ve ever known. Research is unearthing more and more surprising ways in which the health of our eyes directly links to both our physical brain health and emotional wellbeing.
Let’s discover the facts as we explore these ‘unseen’ connections in our children’s neurological development
Clear vision & mental wellbeing
The simplest, yet most powerful way in which our eyes dictate our mental wellbeing is the ability to adequately see the world around us. As human beings, we rely on vision as our primary and most elemental ‘compass’ in navigating our environment.
When this window to the world becomes compromised, our everyday navigation becomes difficult, thus causing the release of the stress hormone Cortisol in the body. In this stressed state, our mental health suffers as we become irritable and unmotivated. This stress hormone has also been shown to interfere with our learning by hindering our capacity to encode memories in the brain.
In children, these problems can be debilitating as such young minds are ill-equipped in navigating their immediate environment with compromised sight. Even the most common eye conditions which cause build-up or irritation in the eyes can cause temporary blurred vision, along with more serious complications within the brain.
Straining of the eyes & brain inflammation
Even as adults, we strain our eyes to better see the world around us. The action of straining itself can help us to better see far away objects and focus on small details around us.
However, excessive straining can be a symptom of poor vision. Those of us with prescription glasses will fully understand the struggle of trying to see small objects in detail without the help of spectacles.
As adults, we can easily notice when our vision becomes faulty because we have the past experience of clearer vision as a relative comparison. However, our children are much less able to discern that their vision is impaired because they simply lack the experiential understanding of what qualifies as unfocused vision. With young and developing eyes, it can be difficult for a child to realize they might need visual enhancements. This can cause chronic straining as their fragile eyes try harder and harder to focus on the world around them.
Continual straining of the eyes can lead to conditions such as ocular migraines. This occurs when inflammatory substances are released deep within the brain and have been shown to be directly linked with excessive eye straining and overexposure to digital screens. When ongoing, this chronic inflammation of the brain can cause a decrease in mental wellbeing and may develop a higher risk of ischemic stroke later in life.
The eyes as a window to brain health
Studies have shown us that signs of potential conditions of the brain can often be seen in the eyes first. The eyes, being a delicate organ connected directly to the blood vessels of the brain, can show the early symptoms of vascular damage in the brain. Individuals with mild damage to the retina of the eye were shown to have less cognitive ability, in a study published in 2012 by the University of California.
Our children’s eyes can tell us about their brain health, as symptoms of various medical conditions from tumors to multiple sclerosis can be discovered early through recognition of unusual developments in our children’s eyes. Things to look out for include redness, itching, twitching of the eyes and excessive straining. Though these symptoms are often harmless, as vigilant parents we should always consult with our Pediatrician to put our minds at ease.
Everything is connected…
The eyes are our children’s most valuable tool in brain development. Everything which these young minds experience is first and foremost absorbed by the eyes before being transmitted to the brain. This intricate connection allows our children to begin to understand their everyday environment and learn from each experience.
We as parents can directly influence our children’s neurological health and brain development through the understanding that the eyes and the brain work in unison. This knowledge gives us the ability to further develop our children’s learning and to prevent the many dangers and conditions which they are susceptible to at a young age.
Understanding this interconnectivity and taking action with regular doctor’s checkups empowers us as parents to take control of our children’s development.