Anyone who grew up in a large family likely remembers hearing "Don't wake the baby." While it reinforces the message to older kids to keep it down, research shows that sleep also is an important part of how infants learn more about their new world.
Rebecca Gomez, Richard Bootzin and Lynn Nadel in the psychology department at the University of Arizona in Tucson found that babies who are able to get in a little daytime nap are more likely to exhibit an advanced level of learning known as abstraction.
Nadel, a Regents' Professor at the UA, will describe the group's work (Early Learning in Infants May Depend on Sleep) in a session at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in San Diego on Sunday, Feb. 21, starting at 8:30 a.m., Pacific time.
In their research, Nadel and his colleagues played recordings of "phrases" created from an artificial language to four dozen 15-month-old infants during a learning session. Their methodology included repeatedly playing phrases like "pel-wadim-jic" until the babies became familiar with them.
These phrases contained three units, with the first and last unit forming a relationship. In this example, the first word, "pel," predicts the last, "jic." Even though these are nonsensical sounds, the language created for the test shares some similarity with structure commonly found in subject-verb agreement in English sentences.
Prior to being tested, some infants learning this faux language took their normally scheduled naps. Others were scheduled at a time when they would not nap following the session. When the infants returned to the lab, they again heard the recordings - along with a set of different phrases in which the predictive relationship between the first and last words were new.
By carefully watching the babies' facial expressions as they listened to both old and new phrases, the researchers were able to rate their level of attention. They fou
|Contact: Lynn Nadel|
University of Arizona