Using a brain-imaging technique that examines the entire infant brain, researchers have found that the anatomy of certain brain areas – the hippocampus and cerebellum – can predict children’s language abilities at one year of age.
Daily Mail Reading at a young age makes you smarter: Children who enjoy books early in ... Daily Mail Children who can read well by the age of seven are more intelligent in later years, scientists have found.
A while back, we set up a "science lab" in the outdoor classroom. Various shades of colored water filled bins upon bins in our dramatic play area. The children donned goggles and lab coats and set to work mixing the brilliant colors in beakers, funnels, measures, cups, basters, and more.
That listening helps our brains learn to distinguish which of the many sounds in our environment could possibly be related to speech.
Is the beeping microwave speech? The rumbling washing machine? The scrape of a chair leg?
A Rutgers University-Newark researcher has found a way to boost those skills in babies as young as four months old by rewarding them for paying attention to tiny bursts of sound.
Through a nifty series of 8-10 minute experiments with babies ages four to seven months, April Benasich, director of the Infancy Studies Laboratory at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, says she has discovered a way to help them organize the brain pathways that will help them perceive language.
It’s a big impact for such a little change. The results were published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.
Benasich emphasized the training can’t turn a baby into a linguistic genius; it can only bolster and solidify pathways within the brain to make those connections robust, not to accelerate their development.
In the experiment sessions, a baby was held in a caregiver’s lap while short bursts of sound were played. The sounds were not words; instead, they were sounds like chirps and swishes.
When the sounds played, something interesting would flash on a video screen – colorful geometric images, or giggling children. The babies soon learned that a sound meant they’d see a fun image, so most would shift their glance to the screen in anticipation.
A monitor that was able to track their eye movements kept track of when they looked at the screen – and by inference, whether they’d perceived the sound. Each baby participated in six short sessions.
In short, the set-up was a way to reward babies for actively listening to sounds during the very time period during which their brains are developing a network of pathways to sound perception.
“What we’re trying to do is help the babies organize their brains to keep track of what’s going on in their environment and focus on what’s important,” she said.
The children were examined three months later, at the age of seven months, when EEG scans showed their brains had become more efficient at processing sounds than babies who had had no training.
“All of the kids got a boost: some a little, some a lot,” Benasich said. “It’s a big impact for such a little change.
That’s important, because other studies have shown these early skills acquired even before they can talk predict language skills at three, four, and five years of age.
The children in the study were average, without any perceived cognitive problems. If they can benefit from the “training” sessions, she speculates that the 8 to 15 percent of children who are at highest risk for delayed language because of poor acoustic processing skills might benefit from such early intervention.
The babies studied in the lab will be tested again at nine, twelve, and 18 months to see if the early boost they received continued to impact their cognitive development.
“Then we can see if the changes we made will endure,” she said. “We think they will.”
Kathleen O'Brien may be reached at email@example.com, or at (732) 902-4557. Follow her on Twitter @OBrienLedger. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
Infants who score highly on detecting number changes do better on standard tests by the time they reach preschool.
An infant's innate sense for numbers predicts how their mathematical aptitude will develop years later, a team of US researchers has found.
Babies can spot if a set of objects increases or decreases in number — for instance, if the number of dots on a screen grows, even when dot size, colour and arrangement also change. But until recently, researchers could generally only determine the number sense of groups of babies, thus ruling out the ability to correlate this with later mathematics skills in individuals.
In 2010, Elizabeth Brannon, a neuroscientist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and her colleagues demonstrated that they could test and track infants' number sense over time1. To do this, six-month-old babies are presented with two screens. One shows a constant number of dots, such as eight, changing in appearance, and the other also shows changing dots but presents different numbers of them — eight sometimes and 16 other times, for instance. An infant who has a good primitive number sense will spend more time gazing at the screen that presents the changing number of dots.
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