Study Why We Learn Faster As Children

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The proposition that children possess a faster learning capacity than adults has long been associated with factors such as increased time availability, enhanced focus on specific learning tasks, and a reduced fear of making mistakes. However, the disparities extend beyond behavioral aspects to encompass structural and chemical distinctions in their brains. Newborns arrive with a relatively sparse network of connections among the approximately 100 billion neurons in their brains. As they progress through early development, experiences actively shape and reinforce neural connections, with the nature of these connections influenced by the child's environmental stimuli.

Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child underscores the remarkable pace of neural development during a baby's early years, with over 1 million neural connections formed every second. This emphasizes the profound impact of experiences on the intricate process of brain development. Even as children advance in age, distinct characteristics of their brains continue to confer certain advantages in the learning domain.

Research conducted jointly by Brown University and the University of Regensburg delved into the role of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a critical chemical messenger, in the learning process. GABA is instrumental in stabilizing learning by preventing interference from newly acquired information. The study, involving 13 children (ages 8 to 11) and 14 adults (ages 18 to 35), revealed a notable surge in GABA concentrations in children's brains during the learning process. Significantly, these elevated GABA levels persisted even after the conclusion of the learning session, facilitating a rapid stabilization of acquired knowledge in children. In contrast, adults did not exhibit changes in GABA levels, indicating a more protracted period of fragility in the retention of newly acquired knowledge.

Behavioral experiments further demonstrated children's ability to resist interference from newer information shortly after learning, underscoring their efficiency in knowledge retention compared to adults. Co-author Takeo Watanabe highlighted the study's findings, stating, "Our results show that children of elementary school age can learn more items within a given period of time than adults, making learning more efficient in children."


1- Besides behavioral aspects, what do the disparities between children and adults in learning extend to?

2- What does the research by Brown University and the University of Regensburg reveal about GABA levels in children's brains during learning?

3- According to co-author Takeo Watanabe, what do the results of the study show about children of elementary school age?


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Parts of this lesson are based on: An article Engoo Daily News..