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Study Tracks Kids' Brain Activity While Watching 'Sesame Street'
Date:1/4/2013

thing we probably already knew -- that children who are better at [focusing] in general are better at acquiring learned academic skills, because doing so requires attention, concentration and mental effort," Brown said. "However, the study is also novel in its use of more fluid, naturalistic, 'real-world' visual stimuli, which is innovative and important for advancing research on human brain development."

Neuroscientist Daniel Ansari agreed that the research paves the way for more insight into the young brain. "We can use this to understand how children approach these inputs, what kind of information they [pay attention] to," said Ansari, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Western Ontario, in Canada.

Cantlon, the study's lead author, said the next step is to move to the individual level and predict how well specific children will learn things such as math. Eventually, researchers could use brain scans to determine what's going awry in kids who are having trouble.

"It could be something wrong with their concept of numbers, or that there's something more generally wrong -- a kind of memory or attention impairment," she said. "You could use brain activity as another tool to see what's going wrong."

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the James S. McDonnell Foundation. It appears in the Jan. 3 issue of the journal PLoS Biology.

More information

For more about child development, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCES: Jessica Cantlon, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of brain and cognitive sciences, University of Rochester, Rochester, N.Y.; Timothy Brown, Ph.D., developmental cognitive neuroscientist, University of California, San Diego; Daniel Ansari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cogn
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