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Brain Waves at 2 Could Predict Cognitive Development

Baby boy having brain tested, Seattle, Washington
Photograph by Getty Images

In a study published in the journal PLOS One this past week, researchers claim that certain brain waves (measured via painless EEG)—when a 2-year-old is exposed to verbal words—could predict future (as in, at 4 and 6 years old) language skills, as well as cognitive development and even behavior in children already diagnosed with autism, according to the LA Times.

The researchers believe that there is a structure inhibiting language learning and behavior, which they've called a "social gateway,” according to researcher Patricia Kuhl, from the University of Washington’s Institute for Brain and Learning Sciences, who is looking at early language and brain development. It's surprising that this "social gateway" affects more than just language, but it's something that Kuhl has believed for awhile. “I had been arguing that social learning isn’t just about language, it’s about just about everything we do,” Kuhl said. “You learn the habits and mechanisms of interaction in the culture through watching other people.”

The research has only strengthened Kuhl's belief in the brain's use of the social gateway and its affect on learning. “It’s like you’re predicting the ability to learn, and not just learn language, but just plain learn," she said. "And that’s a complete shocker.”

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