New research published on October 2, 2013, in The Journal of Neuroscience has found that the human brain is more predisposed to language learning between the ages of two and four years old, which is the reason why any language-related problems should be properly treated at a young age. The study was led by Dr Jonathan O’Muircheartaigh, together with other scientists from King’s College (in London), and Brown University (in Rhode Island), who worked with 108 children, taking scans of their normally functioning brains.
The Findings of the Research
The new research has shown that children from age two to four are especially susceptible to environmental factors because it is at this age that the brain starts developing in order to process new words. According to the findings, the level of myelin in the brain becomes relatively stable after the age of four, making the brain the most permeable before then.
The research has explained why children learn language faster than adults, or why bilingual immersion classrooms or growing within a bilingual family makes it easier for children to grow up speaking the two languages fluently. A derived conclusion is that help should be provided early in the case of any sort of disability. According to Dr O’Muircheartaigh, early intervention may significantly affect children with disorders such as autism, who tend to develop linguistic skills more slowly than normal.
One Step Further
This research is the first of its type, as it deals with the relationship between language and the brain during the early childhood. According to Professor Dorothy Bishop, from the department of Developmental Neuropsychology at the University of Oxford, the reasonable next step to assert the functional implications of the findings would be carrying out a longitudinal study. This would imply studying children over time so as to analyse their structural brain changes and how these relate to language.