Georgetown university medical center researchers recently found that Wernicke’s area is actually 3 centimeters closer to the front of brain. Of course this finding will have people editing the anatomy textbooks but it also suggests that we are closer to non-primates in terms of our language processing. The current location is closer to the location of Wernicke’s area in non-primates thus suggesting an evolutionary link.
Now that the location of this area is similar across primates and non-primates, presence of a highly complex language in humans needs to be accounted for. Studies have shown that leftward asymmetry in Wernicke’s area originated before the evolution of modern human language as this asymmetry is also seen in Chimpanzee.
Even though there are anatomical links between humans and non-primates in the brain structure, humans may have evolved some specific strategies that helped them along in the development of a sophisticated language. This would be an interesting area to investigate.
But apart from this, what influence do you think this change in location of Wernicke’s area will have on speech and language therapy in people with aphasia? 3 cms distance may not sound much but is quite significant considering the size of brain. However will this location change impact the way language is processed by humans? It is imperative to know the influence of this location change on interconnections within the brain. If it does influence the interconnections then maybe we need to rethink language processing.
Recently American academy of pediatrics urged the parents to limit the media exposure to young children especially infants and toddlers. It suggested that the media provided a constant background noise and also influenced the quality of time that parents spent with their children. They also suggest that so called educational programs may not really provide any educational benefits especially for children under 2 years of age. Young children do not benefit as much from media as they do from a real life interaction.
A study on fast mapping (ability to learn new words quickly) in toddlers exposed to educational programs on television was conducted by Krcmar, Grela and Lin (2007). They compared the fast mapping in joint referencing (adults present the word in live interaction) vs child program condition. Word learning was significantly better in joint reference condition stressing the importance of human interaction. Another study by Krcmar in 2011 also supported these findings and showed that there was no correlation between visual attention and the learning. This means that the fact that children look at the media does not mean that they are getting anything out of it. Following video by Patricia Kuhl on linguistic genius of babies also supports the importance of a live interaction in language learning.
These are interesting findings and support the advice SLP’s have been giving the parents of children with language learning difficulties, talk to your child. In my opinion, as a mother of a 6 month old, I strongly feel that spending one on one time with children provides for quality communication. There is the obvious question of what to do when you have to run errands and need to let the child be on its own for some time. Letting children play on their own may be the answer as it promotes problem solving. However the question is how realistic is it to limit the media exposure to young children. How do you balance this inevitable exposure to media with a live human interaction? What suggestions do you give to parents who ask questions on media exposure? According to me it definitely is a balancing act and also a responsibility on the part of parents to be aware of the content that the child is being exposed to. Media exposure with adult interaction/explanation could be more beneficial than solitary media exposure. What do you think? To watch or not to watch……..