NEWS Mental Health News How Early Learning Can Impact the Brain Throughout Adulthood By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice, who has worked for three academic institutions across Canada. Her essay, “Inclusive Reproductive Justice,” was in the Reproductive Justice Briefing Book. Learn about our editorial process Published on July 07, 2021 Fact checked Verywell Mind content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more. by Nicholas Blackmer Fact checked by Nicholas Blackmer LinkedIn Nick Blackmer is a librarian, fact-checker, and researcher with more than 20 years’ experience in consumer-oriented health and wellness content. He keeps a DSM-5 on hand just in case. Learn about our editorial process Share Tweet Email Print 10'000 Hours / Getty Images Key Takeaways Cognitive and linguistic stimulation from early infancy has an impact on brain structure in mid-life, based on MRI scans.Gender mediated this, as greater volume increases and positive differences in the surface area were found in the brains of men. Learning has long been a topic of interest at all levels of society. A recently published study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience found that early cognitive and linguistic stimulation has lasting impacts on brain structure. Especially with the shift to remote school options that had to be navigated during the pandemic, proven strategies for maximizing learning were high on many priority lists, especially for the parents of young children. As individuals become increasingly aware of the disparities that have existed across the U.S. for centuries, this research highlights the need for more programs for children to ensure that learning is equitably accessible. The Study This study surveyed 112 primarily Black participants of low income and maternal education, and risk factors such as paternal absence and welfare receipt. From the age of 3–21 weeks old until the age of 5 years old, participants engaged in a cognitively and linguistically stimulating intervention program, in comparison to a control group. Four decades following this enhanced cognitive and linguistic intervention, participants from both groups completed structural MRI scans to measure the volumes, surface areas, and thicknesses of all their brain areas. The small sample size must be noted as a limitation, as well as only having images from one stage of life long after the conclusion of the intervention, and the inability of an MRI scan to detect changes at the cellular level. What Is Neuroplasticity? Learning from Infancy Licensed psychologist and founder of Atlas Psychology, Amy Nasamran, PhD, says, "Early language stimulation is related to cognitive development and that early intervention is effective for a variety of populations, including neurotypical and neurodiverse children, children from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and children of different racial groups." Amy Nasamran, PhD It is important for people to know that it is not necessary for a baby to come from a high SES background to make language and cognitive gains and succeed as an adult. — Amy Nasamran, PhD When it comes to incorporating language-based activities into the daily lives of infants, Nasamran encourages parents to talk to babies, read books with babies, and engage babies in everyday activities using language. "The more we use language around infants and toddlers, the more language they will learn, also stimulating their cognitive development," she says. Nasamran says, "It is important for people to know that it is not necessary for a baby to come from a high SES background to make language and cognitive gains and succeed as an adult. There are resources that are available to families to facilitate early learning, such as Head Start preschool programs. We can provide resources and education to the community, helping families from diverse backgrounds understand how to engage babies and toddlers in early language learning activities." 5 Surprising Ways That Stress Affects Your Brain Early Learning Impacts Brain Development Pediatric neuropsychologist and executive director of Brain Behavior Bridge, Sarah Allen, PhD, CBIS, says, "Remember that all brains still grow. Just talking to your kids, reading them books, and asking them questions helps! If you can't afford a preschool or do not have access to one, work on engaging your child and participating in reciprocal play and talk." Sarah Allen, PhD, CBIS As someone who's experienced personal loss on a number of levels, remember that little brains are adaptable and moldable. — Sarah Allen, PhD, CBIS While early interventions have long been promoted for a variety of situations, Allen highlights how this research demonstrates that these early learning experiences change the brain. "This study shows objective changes that are not dependent on SES. It also further supports the idea that there is an effect of nurture or environment on the brain," she says. Allen says, "As someone who's experienced personal loss on a number of levels, remember that little brains are adaptable and moldable. They will grow and learn with every experience you give them. It's our job to turn these experiences into teachable moments that enhance growth." What This Means For You As this research demonstrates, early learning can be instrumental for brain development, which impacts one's outcomes in adulthood. It is why Namasran says, "Early intervention is key to future development." As the US attempts to recover from the economic turmoil of the pandemic, these findings highlight the need for increased programming to support young children with equitable learning. What Is Learning? 1 Source Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Farah MJ, Sternberg S, Nichols TA, et al. Randomized manipulation of early cognitive experience impacts adult brain structure. J Cogn Neurosci. 2021;33(6):1197-1209. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01709 By Krystal Jagoo Krystal Kavita Jagoo is a social worker, committed to anti-oppressive practice. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.