The brain has a critical window for language development between the ages of two and four, brain scans suggest. This is from the BBC…
Environmental influences have their biggest impact before the age of four, as the brain’s wiring develops to process new words, say UK and US scientists.
The research in The Journal of Neuroscience suggests disorders causing language delay should be tackled early.
It also explains why young children are good at learning two languages.
The scientists, based at King’s College London, and Brown University, Rhode Island, studied 108 children with normal brain development between the ages of one and six.
They used brain scans to look at myelin – the insulation that develops from birth within the circuitry of the brain.
To their surprise, they found the distribution of myelin is fixed from the age of four, suggesting the brain is most plastic in very early life.
Any environmental influences on brain development will be strongest in infanthood, they predict.
This explains why immersing children in a bilingual environment before the age of four gives them the best chance of becoming fluent in both languages, the research suggests.
It also suggests that there is a critical time during development when environmental influence on cognitive skills may be greatest.
Dr Jonathan O’Muircheartaigh, from King’s College London, led the study.
He told the BBC: “Since our work seems to indicate that brain circuits associated with language are more flexible before the age of four, early intervention for children with delayed language attainment should be initiated before this critical age.
“This may be relevant to many developmental disorders, such as autism, since delayed language is a common early trait.”…