If you have ever thought that your elementary school children are “smarter” that you are not wrong but, don’t worry, it’s normal. Today a study published in Current Biology explains why children capture new information faster than adults.
According to the study, children and adults have differences in GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a brain neurotransmitter that is responsible for stabilizing newly learned material.
The study has verified that when faced with new visual stimuli, the GABA level of adults remains constant, while that of children undergoes a rapid boost that helps children’s brains to capture new information more quickly and efficiently.
“Our results show that school-age children can learn more things in a given period of time than adults, which makes learning more efficient for them”says Takeo Watanabe of Brown University (Rhode Island, United States).
The objective of the study was to determine which neural mechanisms were responsible for the most efficient learning among children.
To do this, they looked for differences in GABA and investigated how levels change before, during, and after learning in children and adults.
Using behavioral and neuroimaging techniques, they found that visual learning caused an increase in GABA in the children’s visual cortex—the area of the brain that processes images—and that this increase continued for several minutes after the training ended.
However, with the same visual training, the adults did not register any change in GABA.
“In subsequent behavioral experiments, we found that children did indeed stabilize new learning much more quickly than adults, consistent with the common belief that children outperform adults in learning ability.” says Sebastian M. Frank, now at the University of Regensburg (Germany).
Y “GABA is a key element for learning to be efficient in children”concludes Frank.
The results of the study “They should encourage teachers and parents more to give children plenty of opportunities to learn new skills, whether it’s learning their multiplication tables or riding a bike.” advises the study.
The results may also change neuroscientists’ understanding of the maturity of children’s brains.
Although children’s brains have not yet fully matured and many of their functions are not as efficient as in adults, “children are not, in general, surpassed in their capacities by adults”, warns Watanabe.
“On the contrary, children are, at least in some domains such as visual learning, superior in their abilities to adults.”
In future studies, the team will analyze the GANA responses in other learning domains such as reading and writing.
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