A recent study from MIT finds that talking back and forth, or engaging in communicative exchange, between an adult and child not only helps with language development and can actually change brain physiology. Anne Trafton at the MIT News Office writes, “In a study of children between the ages of 4 and 6, they found that differences in the number of ‘conversational turns’ accounted for a large portion of the differences in brain physiology and language skills that they found among the children. This finding applied to children regardless of parental income or education.”
Researchers found that parents and other adults can have influence over a child’s brain development simply by engaging in conversation where both parties take turns. “The important thing is not just to talk to your child, but to talk with your child. It’s not just about dumping language into your child’s brain, but to actually carry on a conversation with them,” says Rachel Romeo, a graduate student at Harvard and MIT.
“The really novel thing about our paper is that it provides the first evidence that family conversation at home is associated with brain development in children. It’s almost magical how parental conversation appears to influence the biological growth of the brain,” says John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences, a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and the senior author of the study.