Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Baby learning.

Do babies learn the same way adults do, or is there something else going on in there before they can speak?

Damage to two particular regions of the brain causes language impairment in adults, while in children it does not halt language development. Does this mean baby brains work language through different regions to adult brains, or is their brain so adaptable that they can call in other areas to make up for the damage?

Researchers from the University of California San Diego used two types of brain scans, both noninvasive, to check on the areas in the brain that were activating in babies aged 12 months to 18 months. The results appear in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

The tests were quite simple. First, say a common word or alternatively a fake word that sounds quite similar. Second, show a picture of a common object, like a ball or a dog, and say either the correct name or a wrong name for the picture.

From the scans, the team found that even before they can speak, babies process language in the same areas as adults, as the same areas become active. This means if these get damaged in young children, the brain is still flexible enough to call on other areas for language development, whereas in adults, the brain is too fixed to re-route.

The team also found that the babies already had a mental database of words they understood. When pictures were mismatched to names, adult brains become active in a particular region that handles errors in language, and the brain scans showed babies did this too.

So, even before your baby can talk, he or she is learning much the same way an adult does, and has already developed a vocabulary.

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January 10, 2011 Posted by | Brain, Language, Learning, Success | Leave a comment

Pregnancy v autism.

A trio of researchers has discovered that if there is a short interval between first and second babies, the second one has an increased risk of autism.

The researchers looked at 660,000 pairs of siblings born in California between 1992 and 2002, where the first-born did not have autism. Then they compared the rates of autism in the second sibling, using the interval between when the mother first gave birth and when she became pregnant again.

Compared to an interval of 3+ years, an interval of 2-3 years resulted in an increase in the risk of autism by 27%, while 1-2 years increased the risk by 87% and under 1 year increased the risk by 139%.

The researchers checked their work using pairs of siblings where the 1st born had autism, and again found the second was at even greater risk if the interval was less than 3 years.

Experts in autism are cautioning that although the study appears sound, it is normal to wait for results to be replicated in a different group of people.

However, other studies have shown an increased risk of schizophrenia in the second born where there is a short interval between pregnancies. While other problems such as being severely pre-term are also linked to increased risk of autism.

Collectively, these suggest that a short interval increases the chance that the second child’s neural development is impacted.

The researchers speculated that the reason might be a depleted level of nutrients such as folate or iron, or elevated stress levels.

Until a mechanism is established, this would suggest mothers falling pregnant within 3 years of last giving birth should make sure their nutrients follow medical recommendations closely, and put practices in place to cut stress.

January 10, 2011 Posted by | Autism, Brain, Child Health, Diet, Minerals, Pregnancy, Stress, Success, Vitamins | Leave a comment