University of Iowa researchers say they’re making great strides in learning about the brains of infants. Dr. Lisa Oakes, a U-of-I psychology professor, says her team’s study finds an infant’s visual short-term memory — a key element of brain development — expands significantly in the second half of the first year of life, reaching adult capacity by 12 months.Dr. Oakes says visual short-term memory is crucial for infants trying to learn about the world around them. Before they can start comparing objects to learn what makes them similar and different, infants must be able to remember an object they have seen before but are not currently seeing. Dr. Oakes says four and six-month-olds have some short-term memory, but there are much greater changes between six months and one year. She explains why these findings are relevant.While it’s something of a challenge, Oakes says they devised a way to test the short-term visual memory of infants by using a series of colored squares projected on two computer screens in front of the child. Oakes says the squares would blink on and off and they would watch how long the babies watched the squares. The study is being published in the journal “Child Development.” It’s apparently the first to demonstrate conclusively infants have visual short-term memory and that its capacity is similar to that of an adult by the time babies reach their first birthdays.
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