Study of the Day: The Infant Brain Can Be Trained to Concentrate

More

The ability to focus is a known marker of success. New research finds out just how early you can start teaching your child this skill.

Study0906.jpg

PROBLEM: Research suggests that the differences in children's ability to concentrate emerges early in development and that kids who show superior "attentional control" do better in school down the line. This begs the question: How early can you teach your child to concentrate?

METHODOLOGY: For 15 days, British researchers Sam Wass, Kaska Porayska-Pomsta, and Mark Johnson trained 21 11-month-old infants to focus on certain images on a computer screen. In one of four lab tasks, a flying butterfly appeared on screen as long as the infant kept his or her eyes on it and ignored other distracting visuals. Another set of babies, the control group, watched television. The scientists assessed the children's cognitive abilities as they played with toys at the beginning and end of the trial period.

RESULTS: The infants who were trained quickly developed their ability to focus for longer periods and to shift their attention from one point to another. By the end of the trial they also spotted more patterns and small but significant changes while playing with toys, suggesting a heightened ability to alter the frequency of eye movements in response to context.

CONCLUSION: Infants can be trained to improve their concentration skills.

IMPLICATION: The infant brain displays immense plasticity. To substantially alter cognitive development, starting brain-training exercises earlier may be better.

SOURCE: The full study, "Training Attentional Control in Infancy," is published in the journal Current Biology.

Image: soupboy/Flickr .

Jump to comments
Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

How have stories changed in the age of social media? The minds behind House of Cards, This American Life, and The Moth discuss.


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

How Will Climate Change Affect Cities?

Urban planners and environmentalists predict the future of city life.

Video

The Inner Life of a Drag Queen

A short documentary about cross-dressing, masculinity, identity, and performance

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In