What We Can Learn From the Brains of Babies

Friday, September 30, 2011

Baby (Flickr: Kimberly Calderon)

Scientists have found that babies can become fluent in foreign languages at an extremely fast rate; one that begins to slow down by their first birthday. What is it about the make-up of their brains as newborns that gives them this ability? Could adults train their brains to be more like the brains of babies?

Patricia Kuhl dedicates her life to these questions. She’s the co-director at the Institute of Learning and Brain Sciences and a professor of speech and hearing sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. She joins us to discuss her findings on babies' brains.


Patricia Kuhl

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Comments [2]

Nancy from Sterling Heights Michigan

As a reader of good Science Fiction, this story took me immediately back to the Orson Scott Card books about Ender's War. In this not-so-futuristic story, young children are brought into training centers when Earth is attacked by alien ships piloted by beings we cannot understand or communicate with. Believing that they are engaged in training exercises, the children participate in war games in three-dimensional, gravity-free environments. When they succeed in defeating the alien ships and destroy their home world, it is admitted that the war games were not games at all. Little children are left with the knowledge that they obliterated a society that we knew nothing about, other than their attack on us.

Today's story makes this scenario so much more real. Children's pattern-recognition skills and lack of interfering thoughts on right, wrong, or consequences do make them the perfect people to help us to crack languages and behavioral patterns that are completely foreign to us.

Something to think about and guard against...

Sep. 30 2011 09:10 AM
chris from Bed-Stuy

I've been teaching in NYC schools for 10 years. When I got my master's in education, I took classes citing 30 year old studies saying that people learn best in creative, vibrant, challenging environments and that standardized tests tell us nothing. A decade later, my students are still judged on the Regents, the SAT's, and other benchmarks that fly in the face of science. I love Kuhl work, but how long do we have to wait until the facts start to affect the way we evaluate our students?

Sep. 30 2011 09:00 AM

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