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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