London, Oct 15: If books are introduced to children when they are at the age four, a part of their brain involved in language and thought matures more quickly by the age of 18 or 19, a study has found.
Access to educational toys and trips to the zoo and amusement parks also provide this benefit.
But these books and treats seem to have little impact on the brain if introduced at the age of eight, suggesting the age of four is a critical time in its development, according to study presented at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual conference in New Orleans.
The University of Pennsylvania study has excited scientists because it the first to show how small differences in a normal upbringing affect the brain, the Daily Mail reported.
Fro the study, the researchers visited the homes of 64 children, whose parents had a similar socio- economic status, when they were aged four and again aged eight.
They noted things such as access to books and toys. About 15 years after the first visit, the children underwent brain scans.
The researchers then found that in children who had access to books and educational toys and went on trips at the age of four, parts of the brain were thinner – which is a good thing in terms of development.
The effect was particularly noticeable in a region called lateral left temporal cortex, which sits near the surface of the brain, just above the ear, and plays a role in language and thought.
“In the course of brain maturation during childhood and adulthood, the cortex becomes thinner,” the paper quoted researcher Martha as saying.
“You would think it would bulk up but it turns out that a lot of the development including the finishing touches put on the brain in late adolescence, early adulthood involve not adding cells and connections but rather eliminating the ones that aren’t needed, so you are left with a lean, mean machine.
“We found the better the cognitive stimulation, the thinner the cortex. So it looks like whatever the normal development process is has either accelerated or gone further,” she said.
She added that the fact that the families were all of a similar socio-economic status meant that the results couldn’t simply be explained away by differences in class or earnings. (ANI)