Study shows that talking to toddlers helps boost brain development
A new study has shown that talking to toddlers can help shape their brain development.
New research from the University of East Anglia published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that toddlers develop much faster if they are spoken to from a young age, after thousands of hours of data was recorded.
Researchers used thousands of hours of language data from babies and toddlers wearing small recording devices as well as MRI scans to study the structure of their developing brains to come to this conclusion.
During the MRIs, researchers looked at a substance in the brain called myelin.
The research found that two-and-a-half year olds who heard more speech throughout their day to day lives had more myelin in language-related areas of their brains and say this is likely to support more sophisticated language processing.
Lead researcher Prof John Spencer, from UEA’s School of Psychology, said: “We know that children’s brains develop very rapidly in the first two years of life, with brain volume at about 80 per cent that of an adult brain by the age of two.
“Myelin is made up of protein and fatty substances and forms an insulating layer around nerves in the brain. It makes brain signals more efficient.
“Imagine you have a hosepipe with lots of holes in it. Myelin is like wrapping the hosepipe with duct tape – it insulates neural fibres, bringing more of the ‘signal’ from one brain area to the next.
“We wanted to know more about how this substance is involved with early brain development and particularly whether talking to young children boosts myelin production.”
The study involved 163 babies and toddlers wearing small recording devices for up to 16 hours per day across three days which monitored language data.
These devices caught 6,208 hours of language data in total, coming from adults, conversational turns and words spoken by the children themselves.
Researchers then waited for children to fall asleep in order to carry out the MRIs as a way of monitoring the brain myelin as they slept.
Professor Spencer added: “What we found is that the toddlers who heard more speech in their everyday environment, also had more myelin, which is likely to support more sophisticated language processing.
“In other words - talking to your kids is very important in early development as it helps to shape the brain.”