Fetal brain development and abortion: a neuroscientific perspective

Imagine that you, dear reader,
he learns that a friend, sister, aunt or acquaintance has just become pregnant.

She doesn’t know what to do because she is only 16; her boyfriend has abandoned her, she is desperate and is thinking about terminating her pregnancy.
What advice would you give him? To give up or not to give up? If she has an abortion, will she go to hell? Is the product already a human being, does it have a soul?

Abortion from a neuroscience perspective

To understand abortion, neuroscience, and more specifically neuroethics, has begun to investigate and unravel the secrets of the human brain. Several studies have found interesting data regarding brain development and its relationship to the decision to terminate pregnancy or not.

It should be made clear that this is not a writing for or against abortion or conception, the strongest arguments regarding brain development by leading neuroscientists will simply be put forward.

Brain development in the fetus: how does it occur?

Third week after conception: first neurological foundations

I will start by saying that the development of the brain, according to Pinel (2011)
begins about three weeks after conception, When the tissue intended to form the human nervous system can be recognized as a neural plaque; but it is not until the fourth week after the appearance of the three bumps that the first signs of a brain appear.

electrical brain activity does not begin until the end of weeks 5 and 6, i.e. between 40 and 43 days of gestation. However, this is not a consistent activity; it’s not even as coherent as the nervous system of a shrimp.

Week 8, neurons appear and spread in the brain

However, for Gazzaniga (2015),
true brain development begins between weeks 8 and 10. Neurons proliferate and begin to migrate throughout the brain. The anterior commissure is also developed, which is the first interhemispheric connection (a small connection). During this period, reflexes appear for the first time.

The temporal and frontal poles of the brain develop between weeks 12 and 16. The surface of the cortex appears flat in the third month, but by the end of the fourth month, grooves appear. Brain lobes form on their own and neurons continue to proliferate through the cortex (Gazzaniga, 2015).

At week 13, the fetus begins to move. But the fetus is not yet a sensitive and conscious organism, but a kind of sea slug, a cluster of motor-sensory processes induced by reflex acts that do not correspond to anything in a directed or ordered way (Gazzaniga, 2015).

Week 17, the first synapses

Already in week 17 many synapses are forming. Synaptic development does not initiate until approximately day 200 (week 28) of gestation. However, by week 23, the fetus can survive outside the womb with medical attention; also at this stage, the fetus may respond to aversive stimuli. The most important synaptic development continues until the third or fourth postnatal month. At week 32, the fetal brain controls respiration and body temperature.

It should be noted that at the birth of the child, the brain resembles that of an adult, but is far from having completed its development. The cerebral cortex increases in complexity over years, and synapse formation continues throughout life.

Some conclusions about life, the brain and the possibility of an abortion

In conclusion, we can say that if at birth, the brain is still far from fulfilling its functions as we know any adult,
the brain of a group of cells is not and will not be a brain that can developAs mentioned, it is not until week 23 that the product can survive, and only with the help of a specialized medical team.

In short, an adult’s brain is only developed because it has been able to develop in a context that gives it the experiences necessary to become a healthy, normal brain.

The debates and decisions of our lives must begin to be taken and discussed from a scientific point of view and not from a point of view religious, political or ignoring what is going on in our head.

Thanks to the understanding of science and, in particular, neuroscience, it is now possible to make better decisions, in addition to which they will help us to eliminate guilt, thanks to the systematized and rational knowledge which leads to scientific conclusions.

Bibliographical references:

  • Gazzaniga, M. (2015). The ethical brain. Spain: Paidós.
  • Pinel, J. (2011). Biopsychology. United States: Pearson.
  • Swaab, D. (2014). We are our brain. How we think, suffer and love. Spain: Editorial platform.

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