Heroes

How an infant's brain works is pretty simple and pretty genius.

A three-minute look at how babies process life and how our thinking evolves as adults.

As a mom who's new to this babies thing, I'm in constant wonder — always thinking about what's going on in that little noggin.

Will what I'm doing, saying, and exposing my child to affect them in the future? That's a big yep. According to Dr. Patricia K. Kuhl, co-director at the University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, while our mini me's may not be able to express it, what we do from the moment that we become parents leaves an imprint.

Dr. Kuhl, who is also a neuroscientist, talks about this in "The Amazing Brains of Babies," a three-minute look at infants' brain development, produced by National Geographic.


It's simple, Dr. Kuhl explains. Newborns come ready to learn.

According to her research, some of which is spelled out in a paper she wrote called "Born to Learn: Language, Reading, and the Brain of the Child," for babies, the thinking process is super-quick. By age 3, a toddler's brain has twice the amount of connectivity as the adult brain. Wowsers! And as infants, all of that brain activity is in overdrive. Dr. Kuhl says:

"The infant brain is coding all the time. They're trying to understand 'What are the signals that mean I'm going to be fed? What are the signals that mean I'm going to be loved and touched?' The baby's learning that 'When I give the merest hint of a smile, my parents go gaga.' ... They're computational geniuses."


As children develop and become "fully wired," their brains naturally trim off the extra stuff.

"Quite literally like a rose bush, pruning some connections helps strengthen others. This pruning process continues to sculpt an individual's brain until the end of puberty," Dr. Kuhl details in her paper. Toddler brains are also deeply affected by socialization. In "The Amazing Brains of Babies," she explains:

"This computational genius takes place through the social channel that codes the most frequent things that happen in their world. And built into that is the drive to do the things that we do so that they can be like us."
— Dr. Kuhl




To help our little ones maximize their brain power, Dr. Kuhl encourages parents and teachers to support their innate sense of curiosity because as we mature, that's what's needed the most.

"As adults, we have lost some of the creativity of youth. ... We're less enthralled by novelty. In fact, our brains tend to keep us on the narrow, in-the-box thinking. And we can already see the decline in the ability to learn like that at 7."
— Dr. Kuhl

Geez — 7?! How babies soak up knowledge and eventually grow into the intellectuals of tomorrow are deeply affected by all the odd and interesting sensory connections that happen before they can even form sentences. Such interesting factoids for parents, caretakers and teachers. Go babies, go!

To hear more about what may be going on in those cute little minds, check out "The Amazing Brains of Babies" below.


Want more? You can also watch Dr. Kuhl's TED Talk about "The linguistic genius of babies."

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