Recent Research on the Brain and Early Childhood Development
As research in neuroscience advances, our understanding of the brain and healthy brain development continues to change. The following are some recent reports and news releases highlighting cutting-edge research related to the brain and child development. Examples of recent brain research are also highlighted on the BBB Home Page.
New research shows the amygdala is also active in response to pleasant experiences.
The function of the brain may actually be influenced by individuals’ cultural environments.
Building structural connections in a young child’s developing brain is essential for higher-order brain functioning.
Research shows that children as young as age 6 understand what practice is and deliberately practice for the future.
New research shows that dendrite activity has a role in storing long-term memories.
A review of the research on the effectiveness of cognitive training that promises to delay or reduce mental decline.
In a new working paper, the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child explains how early experiences can actually change the way genes express themselves, with long-term implications.
New research confirms that early experiences have the power to change brain circuits.
Research with twins suggests that genetics heavily influence gaze patterns, which contribute to children’s attention and interaction with the environment.
A new study of twins shows that differences in the development of aggression in toddlers are partly due to genetic differences.
Glial cells, the support cells that help neurons function, also play a role in learning and memory in mice.
Children who believe their intelligence can grow are more likely to learn from their mistakes than children who think their intelligence is fixed.
A new technology known as SWIFT provides more in-depth information about how the human brain categorizes images.
New research from Norway shows how the brain maps the environment to make navigation in space possible.
New research suggests that infants may make rational deductions, showing surprise when an unexpected outcome occurred.
Children whose families were homeless for more than 6 months are at high risk for negative health and developmental outcomes.
The brain’s glia support and protect neurons, but also play a role in regulating learning and memory.
The Center on the Developing Child has created a resource with practical tips and activities to help children and teens with working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility—the three major abilities that contribute to executive function.
Neuroscientists are recognizing that men’s and women’s brains have different patterns of neural activity in some areas.
Brain Disorders and Disabilities
Researchers have discovered that child abuse changes the thickness of the myelin coating of axons in the brain. These changes could have long-lasting negative effects on emotion regulation and attachment.
Young adults diagnosed with ADHD in adolescence have different brain structures than young adults who do not have ADHD.
New technology shows that children with SPD have different neural pathways in brain areas responsible for auditory, visual, and tactile processing.
Mothers who drink even small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy can increase the risk of alcoholism in the next three generations.
This report by the National Scientific Council for the Developing Child, explores ways that toxic substances can disrupt the development of all of the body’s organ systems, including the brain.
A working paper from the Harvard University Center on the Developing Child summarizes research on maternal depression and child development.
Parents who faced severe stress or trauma as children are more likely to have children with ADHD and mental health issues.
Developmental differences in late-preterm babies may not show up until after age 2.
Researchers have identified a biomarker that may enable early, non-invasive diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
Researchers have discovered that adults whose childhood ADHD persisted into adulthood have more thinning of the cortex than adults who had ADHD as children but grew out of it.
Many parents of premature babies fear that their child will have later difficulties in school, but research shows that most babies born prematurely are ready for kindergarten on time and achieve similar academic outcomes to full-term babies.
Adolescent drinking may lead to difficulties adapting to stress as an adult, at least in rats.
Babies exposed to tobacco products in utero, or shortly after birth, have an increased risk of behavior problems.
Researchers in Oslo have used modeling to construct images of how newborn infants see people around them.
New research suggests that young infants can already distinguish between different kinds of touch on the skin.
Infant-directed song may have evolved as a way for adults to signal to infants that their needs are being met.
Toddlers in noisy environments may have more difficulty learning new words.
Regularly reading out loud to children, beginning in infancy, can increase vocabulary and reading skills even before they enter school.
Even brief exposure to a language in infancy affects how the brain is wired for language.
Children with low levels of language stimulation in the first three years of life have a higher risk of childhood depression.
What does toddlers’ use of “a” and “the” tell us about their language development?
Researchers have confirmed that reading to children before they enter kindergarten changes the way the brain processes stories, and may predict later reading success.
Studying a second language, even for a short period of time, improves attention skills.
New brain wave studies show that sounding out words increases activity in parts of the brain wired for reading.
People who stutter have less blood flow to Broca’s area, which controls productive language in the brain.
Researchers have found a significant relationship between poor sleep in adolescence and later mental health issues. Teens who experience very poor sleep are more likely to experience poor mental health in later life.
A new study shows that connections between the brain’s left and right hemispheres strengthen during sleep.
Learn how concussions affect the brain.
This TED talk explains how sugar affects the brain, and why sugar tends to be so addictive for many people.
Preschoolers with better fine and gross motor skills perform better on kindergarten readiness measures.
Activities that require balance, such as climbing trees and balancing on a beam, can improve working memory.
Do physical activity interventions lead to improved cognitive skills in children? Researchers who re-analyzed data from 3 studies found that regular exercise improves cognition more in children with poor cognitive performance before the intervention.
Children with poorer-quality sleep tend to have higher body mass index than children who sleep better.
Age-appropriate bedtimes and regular sleep may be important for children to maintain healthy body weight in adolescence.
Sleep-deprived adolescents are more likely to engage in risky behavior.
Researchers have discovered that many infants begin eating complementary foods too soon. Current recommendations suggest introducing solid foods to infants at 6 months of age.
Attachment and Relationships
Research suggests that both older and younger siblings contribute to the development of empathy in each other.
Research suggests that infants learn prosocial behavior through imitation. When they observe helping behavior, they are more likely to be helpful.
This working paper, released by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, summarizes research on early relationships and childn development. The research indicated that early relationships form the foundation for the development of brain circuits, as well as later developmental outcomes. The paper also identifies ways to improve policies that suppport strong, positive relationships in the early years.
Music training positively changes children’s brain structure, leading to lasting benefits.
This report, released by the Alliance for Childhood, documents negative consequences of “test-driven” instructional strategies that have completely replaced play in many kindergartens.
A Scientific American article summarizes research on the benefits of free play for children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.
A new report from the University of Montreal shows that toddlers who watch more television than average have more academic and social problems in middle childhood.
Consistency and Stress
Researchers using an experimental model of a newborn brain damaged by oxygen deprivation at birth have discovered that an enriched environment – with increased opportunities for physical activity, socialization and exploring novel stimuli – helped lessen the brain’s deficits.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s life, children are especially struggling because their agency, or ability to control and make choices within adult-imposed limits, has been reduced. As children return to school and other everyday activities, giving them time for play—and setting up chances to exercise reasonable ‘agency’ during this transition—are two key ways to support their well-being.
The stress of early abuse and neglect may make the brain less able to process positive emotions and rewards.
Researchers are investigating the most effective ways to minimize toxic stress in children living below the poverty line, working through the federal Early Head Start program.
This working paper, released by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, highlights the importance of a nurturing, supportive environment to protect young children against the harmful effects of chronic toxic stress.
Regular bedtimes, mealtimes, and other routines help preschoolers regulate emotions, which may help reduce obesity risk later in life.
Elementary students whose teachers are experiencing burnout tend to have higher cortisol levels, indicating more stress.