Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain structure of infants predicts language skills at one year

Date:
January 22, 2013
Source:
University of Washington
Summary:
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.

A 1 year old baby participates in a language test at UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.
Credit: UW

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 1 year of age.

The University of Washington study is the first to associate these brain structures with future language skills. The results are published in the January issue of the journal Brain and Language.

"The brain of the baby holds an infinite number of secrets just waiting to be uncovered, and these discoveries will show us why infants learn languages like sponges, far surpassing our skills as adults," said co-author Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the UW's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.

Children's language skills soar after they reach their first birthdays, but little is known about how infants' early brain development seeds that path. Identifying which brain areas are related to early language learning could provide a first glimpse of development going awry, allowing for treatments to begin earlier.

"Infancy may be the most important phase of postnatal brain development in humans," said Dilara Deniz Can, lead author and a UW postdoctoral researcher. "Our results showing brain structures linked to later language ability in typically developing infants is a first step toward examining links to brain and behavior in young children with linguistic, psychological and social delays."

In the study, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to measure the brain structure of a mix of 19 boys and girls at 7 months of age. The researchers used a measurement called voxel-based morphometry to determine the concentration of gray matter, consisting of nerve cells, and of white matter, which make up the network of connections throughout the brain.

The study is the first to relate the outcomes of this whole-brain imaging technique to predict future ability in infants. The whole-brain approach freed the researchers from having to select a few brain regions for study ahead of time, ones scientists might have expected to be involved based on adult data.

Five months later, when the children were about 1 year old they returned to the lab for a language test. This test included measures of the children's babbling, recognition of familiar names and words, and their ability to produce different types of sounds.

"At this age, children typically don't say many words," Deniz Can said. "So we rely on babbling and the ability to comprehend language as a sign of early language mastery."

Infants with a greater concentration of gray and white matter in the cerebellum and the hippocampus showed greater language ability at age 1. This is the first study to identify a relationship between language and the cerebellum and hippocampus in infants. Neither brain area is well-known for its role in language: the cerebellum is typically linked to motor learning, while the hippocampus is commonly recognized as a memory processor.

"Looking at the whole brain produced a surprising result and scientists live for surprises. It wasn't the language areas of the infant brain that predicted their future linguistic skills, but instead brain areas linked to motor abilities and memory processing," Kuhl said. "Infants have to listen and memorize the sound patterns used by the people in their culture, and then coax their own mouths and tongues to make these sounds in order join the social conversation and get a response from their parents."

The findings could reflect infants' abilities to master the motor planning for speech and to develop the memory requirements for keeping the sound patterns in mind.

"The brain uses many general skills to learn language," Kuhl said. "Knowing which brain regions are linked to this early learning could help identify children with developmental disabilities and provide them with early interventions that will steer them back toward a typical developmental path."

Todd Richards, a UW professor of radiology, was another co-author. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Santa Fe Institute Consortium.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. The original article was written by Molly McElroy. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Dilara Deniz Can, Todd Richards, Patricia K. Kuhl. Early gray-matter and white-matter concentration in infancy predict later language skills: A whole brain voxel-based morphometry study. Brain and Language, 2013; 124 (1): 34 DOI: 10.1016/j.bandl.2012.10.007

Cite This Page:

University of Washington. "Brain structure of infants predicts language skills at one year." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130122142850.htm>.
University of Washington. (2013, January 22). Brain structure of infants predicts language skills at one year. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130122142850.htm
University of Washington. "Brain structure of infants predicts language skills at one year." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130122142850.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins