Four-year-old children have the same cognitive network in their brains that solves complex problems in adults. Ohio State University reports .
The fronto-parietal network helps people focus, multi-task, and solve complex problems like math. It is known that in children this system is underdeveloped.
Psychologist Zeynep Saigin at Ohio State University and his colleagues have done research and found that children can also use it. The project involved 44 adults aged 18 to 38 and 37 children aged 4 to 12.
During a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan, study participants were given a relatively difficult task: they were shown a series of grids containing 9 to 12 squares, some of the sections being blue. They were then shown two other grids and had to choose which one matched the sequence of blue squares they had seen in the previous samples. Children were given easier trials than adults.
The same participants completed a language task in which they listened to meaningful sentences. In adults, the cognitive network responsible for language perception is adjacent to, but separate from, the fronto-parietal network. It turned out that the same area of the brain – the fronto-parietal network – was activated in both children and adults when they performed a complex task, and was not activated at all for the language task. This disproved one of the hypotheses of scientists about the work of the child’s brain.
“We know that children are poor at focusing, easily distracted and not always good at complex tasks. Based on this, it is logical to assume that they did not use the fronto-parietal network like adults, the authors explain. “But even in 4-year-olds, this network is quite reliable and very different from the language network.”
At the same time, there were significant differences between the work of this area of the brain in adults and children. In particular, the reaction of their fronto-parietal network was much less intense compared to that of adults. This means that many years must pass before it finally matures.