Friday, March 19, 2010

pill may let teens learn language like kids

"These findings suggest that intrinsic brain mechanisms alter learning during adolescence, but that mild stress may be one factor that can reverse this decline in learning proficiency during the teenage years," says Dr. Smith. "They also suggest that different strategies for learning and motivation may be helpful in middle school. And it is within the realm of possibility that a drug could be developed that would increase learning ability post-puberty, one that might be especially useful for adolescents with learning disabilities."

D - Am thinking of tune from Aerosmith, "Dude looks like a lady" - but "Pube' learns like a 8-y". OK they cannot all be gems LOL.

Critical period for language acquisition: the case of Genie:

Scientists believe that there may be a critical period for first language acquisition. This means that there is a time limit during which the baby must be exposed to language if he/she is to acquire language normally. A famous case study which lends support to the critical period theory is the case of Genie. Genie was a young girl who was locked in a small closet-like room at the age of 18 months by her schizophrenic father. Her mother was blind and was also abused by the father, so she was unable to help Genie. After her father died, Genie was finally freed from the closet. She was 13 years old.

When Genie was first locked in the closet, she was just beginning to acquire language. What kind of language skills would she have when released at the age of 13? Genie's tragic case provides evidence that language acquisition may be limited to a critical period. Although Genie is now an adult, her language development is quite immature. She produces mostly nouns, some verbs, but few adjectives or adverbs. Her utterances usually consist of no more than three words. After intensive language training and psychotherapy, Genie has not been able to acquire normal language skills.

Why is there a critical period for learning language? How long is that critical period? The critical period is thought to be related to brain plasticity and lateralization. Plasticity refers to how flexible the brain is in learning various functions. Lateralization refers to the specializations of the two sides, or hemispheres, of the brain. Scientists believe that the critical period for first language acquisition ends somewhere between the ages of 4 and 12. At this age, the brain appears to lose its plasticity for learning language. In addition, specialized language behaviors become controlled primarily by the left hemisphere of the brain. In theory, if a child is not exposed to language during the critical period, he/she will never be able to acquire it normally.
D: I've observed before that a well-designed first language (Finnish), in terms of regular letter system and written orthography, allows additional time to learn more childhood languages.
It would be difficult to overstate the advantage that a well-designed first childhood language can give the child.


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