Monday, January 17, 2011

Connecting dots ... with language

From a random neuroscience blog:

There is a study that was done with rats in a rectangular room with four white walls. They put some cheese in the corner and turned the mouse around a few times and dropping him into the white room. 50% of the time, the rat would go the wrong direction because he had no reference point to find which corner the cheese was in. So, they painted one of the walls blue, so now you would probably hypothesize that the rat would be dropped in the room and think “cheese is left of the blue wall.” Guess what. 50% of the time, the rat went the wrong direction! Researchers concluded that the rat was not able to link those two concepts - ‘left’ and ‘blue wall.’ He knew ‘left’ and knew ‘blue’ but could connect those two pieces of information.

Guess who else cannot connect that information— humans ages 1 - 6 years old. Liz Spelki puts it like this— a child’s brain begins as a bunch of islands. On one side of the brain you have an island “blue” and another on the other side of the brain the island “left” and somewhere in between these there exist ideas like “wall.” At around age 6, children are able to put together phrases in spatial language and think “left of the blue wall” which in turn connects those islands in the brain so the children can understand what “left of the blue wall!” means.

Connectivity in the brain is provided by white rather than gray matter; the white matter is the first to go when people develop Alzheimer's.

tags: brain, mind, invention, science, biology, creativity

No comments: