Talking to babies can
boost their brain power,
a study has revealed.
Months before babies
start to speak, words
play an important role
in their brain
Even at the age of three
The research showed
that babies who heard words were better able to '
categorise' pictures than those who simply heard
three-month-old boys and girls were shown a series
of pictures of fish, accompanied by either words or
The babies were then
shown pictures of a fish and one of a dinosaur side
by side and the researchers measured how long they
looked at each image.
Looking at the fish
longer than the dinosaur demonstrated they had
categorised the fish in their minds, the journal
Child Development reports.
The researchers said
the results were 'striking'. The babies in the word
and tone groups saw exactly the same pictures for
exactly the same amount of time, but only those in
the word group looked at the fish for longer.
Hespos, of Northwestern University in Illinois,
said: 'For infants as young as three months of age,
words exert a special influence that supports the
ability to form a category.
offer the earliest evidence to date for a link
between words and object categories.'
Waxman said: 'We suspect that human speech, and
perhaps especially infant-directed speech, engenders
in young infants a kind of attention to the
surrounding objects that promotes categorisation.
'We proposed that
over time, this general attentional effect would
become more refined, as infants begin to cull
individual words from fluent speech, to distinguish
among individual words and kinds of words, and to
map those words to meaning.'
ability of the baby's brain doesn't end there.
Previous research has concluded they can communicate
remarkably complex thoughts at the age of 12 months.
In an experiment
that has echoes of the Bruce Willis film Look Who's
Talking, researchers in Germany showed that year-old
boys and girls are capable of understanding adults'
In the study carried
out by the Max Planck Institute in 2008, the infants
were able to work out if the scientists needed help
in finding objects that had fallen on the floor.
Then, if necessary,
they made sure they got help to track them down.
contradicts other studies which have suggested that
the ability to understand what others know and do
not know develops around the second year of life.
Other research has
found that newborn babies cry with regional
'accents' copied from their mothers.
suggested that babies eavesdrop on their parents'
conversations while still in the womb and are
picking up their accents.