Talking with children from an early age can help them develop brain regions critical for language and promote their ability to quickly learn new words, a study has found. The study, published in the journal JNeurosci, showed that young children who are regularly engaged in conversation by adults had improved language skills regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Researchers including those from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US conducted a study on 40 four- to six-year-old children and their parents of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. They measured conversational turn-taking over a weekend using in-home audio recording devices.
The study found that greater conversational turn-taking was related to stronger connections between Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area – brain regions critical for the comprehension and production of speech. Although decades of research have established a relationship between socioeconomic status and children’s brain development, the specifics of this connection are not known.
The so-called “word gap” – the influential finding from the early 1990s that school-age children who grew up in lower-SES households have heard 30 million fewer words than their more affluent classmates – and other evidence demonstrating an influence of early language exposure on later language ability suggests a potential influence of language experience on brain structure.