Children are sometimes “smarter” than adults, taking in new information and skills more quickly.
A new study published Nov. 16 in Current Biology reveals a key reason why: children and adults show differences in a brain messenger called GABA, which solidifies newly learned content.
In the study, scientists examined visual learning in elementary school-aged children and adults using state-of-the-art neuroimaging technology.
They looked at how GABA levels changed before, during and after learning.
The study found that visual learning triggered an increase in GABA in children’s visual cortex (the brain region that processes visual information).
At the end of visual training, children’s GABA levels increase rapidly.
This is in contrast to GABA levels in adults, where there is no change in GABA.
This study suggests that children’s brains respond to training in a way that allows them to stabilize new knowledge more quickly and efficiently, and that GABA is a key factor in increasing their learning efficiency.
Although children’s brains are not fully mature and many of their behavioral and cognitive functions are not as effective as those of adults, children are superior to adults in at least some areas such as visual learning.