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.
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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