Newborn babies arrive as strangers in a strange land. They know nothing of the customs or language of their new mysterious world. Yet astonishingly, with almost no obvious effort, babies learn an entirely new language. Some babies even learn several.
They manage this feat, in part, by tons of behind-the-scenes practice, a new study finds. Babies mentally rehearse the movements required for speech long before they utter a word, scientists reported July 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
As real as that daydream may seem, its path through your brain runs opposite reality.
Aiming to discern discrete neural circuits, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have tracked electrical activity in the brains of people who alternately imagined scenes or watched videos.
"A really important problem in brain research is understanding how different parts of the brain are functionally connected. What areas are interacting? What is the direction of communication?" says Barry Van Veen, a UW-Madison professor of electrical and computer engineering. "We know that the brain does not function as a set of independent areas, but as a network of specialized areas that collaborate."