Toddlers' brains show significant growth in cognitive skills by 16 months: University of Bristol Study

Toddlers' brains show significant growth in cognitive skills by 16 months: University of Bristol Study

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Pallavi Pathak
Assistant Manager Content
New Delhi, Updated on Jul 11, 2024 17:54 IST

The initial 16 months is critical period for brain development in toddlers as found in the study by Universities of Bristol and Oxford University.

Toddlers' brains show significant growth in cognitive skills by 16 months: University of Bristol Study

Image source: Neuroscience News

University of Bristol UK has conducted a study with Oxford University on toddlers' brain development which says that the initial 16 months are crucial for developing cognitive skills especially functions needed for the execution of actions, thoughts and behaviours for everyday life.

The brain activities of 16-month-old toddlers were examined by using a functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) which is a child-friendly brain imaging technique. The toddlers were given a simple touchscreen task to complete which needed them to use inhibitory control skills. While the toddlers were trying to complete their tasks, the researchers saw which part of the brain was activated.

Karla Holmboe, Associate Professor in Developmental Science at the University of Bristol’s School of Psychological Science and Abigail Fiske, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford led the study.

They said, “These results are exciting because they shed new light on substantial changes in the brain across the transition from infancy to toddlerhood, despite there being no improvement in inhibitory control skills over this period. Our findings contribute new knowledge about the role of brain areas in early development and could help future research piece together a picture of how an important cognitive skill (inhibitory control), and the brain areas involved, develop from infancy to adulthood.”

"What are the implications for parents and carers? It’s often noticed that toddlers frequently struggle to stop themselves from doing something. In our study, we have shown that lots of changes are happening in toddlers’ brains, and we think that these changes support them in learning this important new skill," they added through a joint statement.

Same group of children studied at 10 months of age and later at 16 months

The study on 10-month-old kids found that these toddlers used the right side of their prefrontal and parietal cortex for inhibitory control. However, 16-month-old toddlers use the left parietal cortex and both sides of the prefrontal cortex more extensively.

The scientists found that 16-month-old toddlers used more parts of their brains than 10-month-old children. Both age groups struggle to stop doing a habitual action but the brain activation part associated dramatically changes.

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