Development of the Infant Brain

Look­ing primar­ily at the research of Alis­on Gopnik, Jonah Lehr­er looks at the devel­op­ment of the infant brain.

Gopnik argues that, in many respects, babies are more con­scious than adults. She com­pares the exper­i­ence of being a baby with that of watch­ing a riv­et­ing movie, or being a tour­ist in a for­eign city, where even the most mundane activ­it­ies seem new and excit­ing. “For a baby, every day is like going to Par­is for the first time,” Gopnik says. “Just go for a walk with a 2‑year-old. You’ll quickly real­ize that they’re see­ing things you don’t even notice.”

via Mind Hacks, which itself has a word of cau­tion about the claim that babies have more neur­ons than adults.

4 thoughts on “Development of the Infant Brain

  1. neonazzer

    This is a great find. And inter­est­ing… Now would it mean that kids have con­trol to a great­er degree on their sens­ory organs and chan­nel ??? And is the line abt babies hav­ing more neur­ons then adults really true ?

  2. s

    I am not that clued in on neur­os­cience, although i do find it inter­est­ing to read about. Would this be more attrib­uted to the fact that as babies do not under­stand everything to the full extent, and also have not seen it over and over like adults do, that they find everything so riv­et­ing? I mean, we know how a squeaky toy works, simply because of the air pres­sure being squeezed out of a tiny hole, but babies do not know how this works, so simply the noise and the won­der­ment of it all gives them joy. we have seen so many of these activ­it­ies done over and over, and there­fore become quite mundane, so we don’t stop to notice the little things that they do. I also have a little sis­ter, so have seen this first hand :)

    love the site by the way, i love learn­ing all these little facts!
    check mine out on word­press

  3. Lloyd Morgan Post author

    @neonazzer From what I’ve read, babies do not have more neur­ons than adults. In one recent study, the con­clu­sion was that “the total num­ber of neo­cor­tic­al neur­ons equals the total num­ber in [adults]”.

    How­ever, depend­ing on the age of the infant, the total num­ber of syn­apses (con­nec­tions between neur­ons) and the syn­apse dens­ity can be twice that of an adult. This graph depict­ing the chan­ging num­ber of synapses/synapse dens­ity is worth a look, if only to see how rap­id the changes are in an infant’s brain (care­fully note the x‑axis scale).

    As for wheth­er this means that infants have great­er con­trol over their sens­ory sys­tems, I would say no, as their use at such an age would be instinctu­al and uncon­trolled. How­ever, as dis­cussed in the art­icle, the untempered ‘lan­tern mode’ of atten­tion is argu­ably super­i­or to ours for cer­tain tasks.

    Thanks for the com­ment and mak­ing me think!

  4. Lloyd Morgan Post author

    @s I too am not par­tic­u­larly versed in neur­os­cience as it’s only some­thing I’ve been read­ing about for the past 18 months or so. How­ever, it is undoubtedly the most fas­cin­at­ing sub­ject I’ve learnt about.

    I think that yes, babies do find every­day items and events riv­et­ing in part because they do not under­stand the mech­an­ics behind how they ‘work’. Con­tinu­ing the squeaky toy example, I ima­gine an infant would be fas­cin­ated by this not just because they don’t under­stand how it works, but also because the squeak itself is a new exper­i­ence, as is the act of squeez­ing a mal­le­able item. Most import­antly, from play­ing with such an item the child is dis­cov­er­ing caus­al­ity: cause (squeez­ing the toy) and effect (squeak) must be a fas­cin­at­ing concept for a child in this early stage of life.

    Thanks for the com­ment and com­pli­ment… I try my best to find the most inter­est­ing stuff I can. I’ll def­in­itely check out your site.

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