Critical and sensitive periods

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A note for Lesson no. 3, "Little Brains Wire Themselves to Their World," in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context from page 51‌‌ is:

Both processes [tuning and pruning] continue throughout life.

Tuning and pruning, collectively called plasticity, continue throughout your life. There are certain times during development, however, when it is easier for the brain to wire itself to its body and the world. These times are called sensitive periods — times when experiences have a particularly strong influence on tuning and pruning. A sensitive period becomes critical when the input must occur or else the ability does not develop normally. For example, light is necessary for visual cortex in mammalian brains and retinas to develop normally after birth.

To read more about critical periods, see this reference.[1]


  1. Reh, Rebecca K., Brian G. Dias, Charles A. Nelson, Daniela Kaufer, Janet F. Werker, Bryan Kolb, Joel D. Levine, and Takao K. Hensch. 2020. "Critical Period Regulation Across Multiple Timescales." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117 (38): 23242–23251.