January 27, 2023

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Why do children learn faster than adults?

Children are widely praised for their ability to remember quickly and absorb huge amounts of new information with ease. the research he did Researchers from Brown University showed that the key ingredient was a neurotransmitter known as γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA). In a paper published in a journal Current BiologyScientists have explained the role of GABA in new information processing and learning.

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a. Takeo Watanabe of Brown University says:

What we found was a rapid increase in GABA in children, in relation to learning. This is an unusual and amazing find. To date, there is no clear neuroscientific evidence explaining why children learn better than adults. It has been known for at least a century that the adult brain needs time to cool down after learning new information.

GABA and its effect on learning

Soon after learning something new, the neural network involved in processing adult information is still flexible. If the same or similar neural network is needed to learn something else very quickly, information that was recently processed can be destroyed – and effectively overwritten. This phenomenon is known as reverse interference.

The neurotransmitter GABA plays an important role in helping the brain to consolidate new information. It stabilizes the network so that subsequent learning does not overwrite what was already there and “defends” the knowledge gained against reverse interference. This type of inhibitory processing of GABA is not fully mature in children. Children have lower levels of GABA – they have less inhibition abilities and less impulse control than adults.

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In previous studies, children’s GABA levels were measured at only one time point, in a non-educational context. To understand the mechanisms of learning, scientists realized they needed to study how GABA levels change during the different stages of learning. Now Prof. Team. Watanabe used an advanced imaging technique called MRS spectroscopy and measured the concentration of GABA in early regions of the visual cortex before, during, and after a learning session. Then compare the GABA concentrations between children (8-11 years old) and adults (18-35 years old).

Children showed a sharp increase in GABA concentration in the second round of learning, while adults’ GABA concentration did not change. In subsequent trials, it was found that resistance to posterior interference, and thus stabilization, did indeed occur within minutes after the end of the session in children. The adults, on the other hand, remained in what the researchers called a “more gentle” state for at least an hour after the session ended.

The conclusions are clear: compared to adults, children show more dynamic GABA-related inhibitory processing, which adapts more rapidly to stabilizing learning. This is why children can absorb more information in less time, and this ability declines with age.