How babies integrate new events into their knowledge

Posted on October 26, 2019

Researchers invited parents, with their nine-month-olds into the lab to look a short picture stories with either expected or unexpected physical and social outcomes. From the perspectives of infants, observing new or unexpected events allowed researchers to investigate infants’ process of novel information.

An example of the study was infants watching a man who was holding a pretzel. In the expected outcome condition, he led the pretzel to his mouth and in the unexpected outcome condition, to violate infants’ expectations – he led the pretzel to his ear.

Theta rhythm is important for the integration of novel events in adults. And in this study, researchers determine if the theta rhythm is also important in the integration of novel information when observing unexpected events in young babies.

To find out more, researchers looked at the electroencephalogram (EEG) during the presentation of the images. EEG measures electrical signs underlying information transfer between nerve cells – this signal can fluctuate at different frequencies that are associated with different ongoing cognitive processes.
The brain areas that are responsible for seeing – the visual cortex, synchronised their activity to the speed of the presented images. We were able to show that the brains of the babies – like adults, respond to the rhythmic presentation of the events.

Only the theta rhythm was sensitive to the unexpected compared to the expected actions. This shows that the theta rhythm is responsible for the encoding of novel information in the infant brain. Importantly, in the alpha rhythm – which looked for comparison, there is no difference between the expected and the unexpected outcomes.

Thus, the theta rhythm does play a fundamental role in the integration of new events into existing knowledge from the young. Scientists can further investigate if learning processes in babies can be actively promoted by visual stimulation of the theta rhythm.

Category(s):Child Development

Source material from Science Daily

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