This is an important and timely contribution to the debate about the effect of the environment on the development of children. The significance of neuroplasticity cannot be underestimated. Some individuals are more influenced be their environment than others. Resistance to the effects of a negative environment (poverty, no exercise, unemployment, high incidence of smoking and drinking) correlates with the levels of self-control present between 3 and 11 years of age.
This and other evidence leads to the postulation of the existence of an ‘executive network’ linked to the prefrontal cortex that regulates behaviour and thought. Essential for the inhibition of impulsive and negative behaviour, those individuals starting life with the strongest executive functioning are more likely to behave in ways that protect and nurture the brain and lead to better long term health in general.
These ideas link well with the concept of self directed neuroplasticity developed from studies later in life in for example the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorders. Another strand of evidence derives from the changes found in the brain following meditation.
It seems the ideal environment for a developing child is a wild garden allowing contact with nature in a safe and secure space.