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Early life events can exert a powerful influence on both the pattern of brain architecture and behavioral development. In this study a conceptual framework is provided for considering how the structure of early experience gets “under the skin.” The study begins with a description of the genetic framework that lays the foundation for brain development, and then proceeds to the ways experience interacts with and modifies the structures and functions of the developing brain. Much of the attention is focused on early experience and sensitive periods, although it is made clear that later experience also plays an important role in maintaining and elaborating this early wiring diagram, which is critical to establishing a solid footing for development beyond the early years.