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Your Child

Obesity Related Heart Disease Found in Children as Young as 8

2:00

All you have to do is look around, wherever children are gathered, to see that there are far too many kids that are overweight in this country.  And sadly, some of these children may already be developing heart disease according to a new study.

The study reports that obese children as young as 8 years of age, are beginning to show signs of heart abnormalities.

"It is both surprising and alarming to us that even the youngest obese children in our study who were 8 years old had evidence of heart disease," said study lead author Linyuan Jing, a postdoctoral fellow with Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa.

"Ultimately, we hope that the effects we see in the hearts of these children are reversible," Jing added. "However, it is possible that there could be permanent damage."

Researchers conducted MRI scans of 40 children between 8 and 16 years old. Half of the participants were obese; the other half was of normal weight for their age and height.

They found that the obese children had an average of 27 percent more muscle mass in the left ventricle region their heart, and 12 percent thicker heart muscle overall. Both are considered indicators of heart disease, Jing said.

Among 40 percent of the obese children, scans showed thickened heart muscle had already translated into a reduced ability to pump blood. The children with this reduced heart capacity were considered to be at “high risk” for adult cardiac strain and heart disease.

"This should be further motivation for parents to help children lead a healthy lifestyle," Jing said.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, called the findings "alarming."

Some of the obese children in the study were struggling with health complications often associated with excess weight, including asthma, high blood pressure and depression, the researchers said. But none displayed customary warning signs of heart disease such as fatigue, dizziness or shortness of breath, Jing said.

The study did not include kids with diabetes or those that were too large to fit inside the MRI scanning machine. Jing noted that the study might actually underestimate how many children are suffering from heart related problems associated with obesity.

Jing said it’s up to parents to help their children maintain a healthy weight. They should buy healthy foods instead of cheap fast food and fruit juice, "which is high in sugar but low in fiber," she said.

She also recommended that parents limit TV, computer and video game time and encourage more physical outdoor activities.

Childhood obesity isn’t just an American problem; it’s a global problem as well.  The World Heart Federation says that one in 10 school-aged children worldwide are estimated to be overweight. However, in the USA, the number of overweight children has doubled and the number of overweight adolescents has tripled since 1980.

The researchers believe that schools can play a role in helping families understand the health problems associated with obesity.

“…Schools and communities need to do a better job at educating both the parents and children about the health risks of overweight and obesity," said Jing.

Fonarow agreed adding, "Substantially increased efforts are needed to prevent and treat childhood obesity."

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Fla.

Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Source: Alan Mozes, http://consumer.healthday.com/cardiovascular-health-information-20/misc-stroke-related-heart-news-360/obese-kids-as-young-as-8-show-heart-disease-signs-705099.html

 

 

 

Your Child

Kids and Caffeine

2.00 to read

While sipping on a coffee-laced Frappuccino, I’m reading about a current study on caffeine and kids. It made me think about my own dependence on caffeine and when it started. For as long as I can remember, my parents would drink several cups of coffee in the morning before going to work, and even as late as right before they retired for the night.  I suspect my mother had a cup while I was busy being born.

I can’t remember exactly when I joined the family coffee drinking ritual, but I know I was pretty young.  Fall and winter demanded hot steaming cups of coffee and iced coffee helped cool the torturous Texas summers. Spring was a combination of both. Sometimes I think that by now, there’s probably coffee bean residue percolating in my blood stream. 

I kind of wish that I’d never started drinking coffee, because it’s the caffeine I really crave- not necessarily the taste of the brew.  When I’ve tried to quit, my body and mind rebels with headaches and bad attitudes. Which brings me back to the study on kids and caffeine.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that children and teens are now getting less caffeine from soda, but more from caffeine-heavy energy drinks and coffee.

"You might expect that caffeine intake decreased, since so much of the caffeine kids drink comes from soda," said the study's lead author, Amy Branum, a statistician at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. "But what we saw is that these decreases in soda were offset by increases in coffee and energy drinks."

Not too long ago, energy drinks were just a fad, something that was more likely to give you the shakes than boost your energy level. That was before they were tweaked and bottled or canned in fruity flavors, sugary beverages and clever advertising. Once kids (and adults) got a taste of the “new and improved” tasty stimulates, the caffeinated beverages began to become a part of every day life – at least Monday through Friday when school and work beckoned.

"In a very short time, they have gone from basically contributing nothing to 6 percent of total caffeine intake," Branum said.

“Energy drinks have more caffeine than soda,. That's their claim to fame," she said. "That's what they're marketed for."

So, what effect does excessive caffeine intake have on our kids? Scientists are not sure yet. There are concerns and a lot of questions about the possible adverse consequences for kids who are still developing.  Caffeine addiction, obesity from sugar heavy beverages, high blood pressure, rapid heart beats and anxiety are some of the side –effects researchers are exploring. 

Using data from the 1999 to 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Branum's team estimated that 73 percent of American children consume some level of caffeine each day.

Although much of their caffeine still comes from soda, the proportion has decreased from 62 percent to 38 percent. At the same time, the amount of caffeine kids get from coffee rose from 10 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2010, the researchers found.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that energy drinks are never appropriate for children or adolescents and in general, caffeine-containing beverages, including soda, should be avoided. The AAP suggests that children should drink water or moderate amounts of juice instead.

The genie is probably out of the preverbal bottle as far as some adolescents and college-aged kids are concerned.  Although, if they are more aware of the possible health risks associated with excessive caffeinated beverages, they may decide to look at healthier energy producing sources such as exercise, meditation and more rest.

Where parents can have the most influence is with their younger children.  Refraining from purchasing caffeinated products (there’s even “energy” gum) and keeping them out of the home is a good first step.

And by all means, avoid introducing your kids to coffee at a young age. It might seem kind of cute, but twenty years down the road, they may wish you hadn’t slid that first cup of java their way.

The report was published in the February edition of the online journal Pediatrics.

Sources: Steven Reinberg,  http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20140210/energy-drinks-coffee-increasing-sources-of-caffeine-for-kids-cdc-says

www.aap.org

Your Baby

Benefits of Waiting to Clamp the Umbilical Cord

2:00

Could waiting just three minutes before clamping the umbilical cord after childbirth make a difference in your child’s motor and social skills? According to a new Swedish study, children of mothers that delay cord clamping, reap the benefits later in life – especially for boys.

Delaying cord clamping is already known to benefit babies by increasing iron levels in their blood for the first few months of life, researchers write in the most recent edition of JAMA Pediatrics.

“There is quite a lot of brain development just after birth,” said lead author Dr. Ola Andersson of Uppsala University in Sweden. “Iron is needed for that process.”

For the study, researchers followed up on 263 Swedish children born at full term to healthy mothers about four years earlier.

As newborns, the children had been part of a larger study in which a total of 382 babies were randomly assigned to either early cord clamping (within 10 seconds of birth) or late cord clamping (at least three minutes after birth).

Four years later, the children were similarly intelligent regardless of when their cords had been clamped, but there were some notable differences.

“When you just meet a child, you wouldn’t see or notice any differences,” Andersson told Reuters Health. “But we could see the differences in fine motor function.”

The children were tested for IQ, motor skills and behavior. Parents also reported on their children’s communication, problem solving and social skills.

Results of the study showed that overall brain development and behavior scores were similar for both groups, and there was no significant difference in IQ scores.

However, more children in the delayed cord clamping group had a mature pencil grip on the fine motor skills test and better skills on some social aspects compared to those whose cords were clamped early.

Researchers found that boys benefitted much more than girls.

Iron deficiency is much more common among male infants than among females, Andersson said.

“Girls have higher iron stores when they are born,” he said.

Delaying cord clamping by three minutes allows an extra 3.5 ounces of blood to transfuse to the baby, which is equivalent to a half a gallon of blood for an adult, Andersson said.

“There’s a lot of iron in that volume,” he said. “Even three minutes can have quite a lot of effect on the iron in the blood in the body for a long time after birth.”

The new study provides evidence of benefit for full-term babies in a developed country where nutritional deficiency is extremely rare, Andersson said.

“When a baby transitions from inside the womb to outside the womb, if you think about what nature does, it is not to clamp the cord immediately,” said Dr. Heike Rabe of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and University Hospitals in the UK.

Why do doctors traditionally clamp the cord quickly? About 60 years ago, doctors began clamping the cord almost immediately because it was thought that it would reduce the risk of hemorrhage for the mother. Doctors now know that is not the case.

Even though the scientific understanding behind cord clamping has changed, it’s still difficult for some doctors to change how they’ve always done things.  Today, parents can have more say in how their baby is born and whom they choose to deliver their child.

Parents-to-be should discuss their wishes with their OB/GYN or family doctor ahead of time and weigh the pros and cons of delaying cord clamping for their particular birthing process.

Source: Kathryn Doyle, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/26/us-gynecology-pediatrics-cord-neurodevel-idUSKBN0OB2ET20150526

 

 

Daily Dose

Treating Ear Infections

Plenty if ear infections going around, so what's the best treatment?It has been very busy in my office with plenty of ear infections going around.  Once you have taken your child to the pediatrician and they have indeed been diagnosed with an ear infection (otitis), what’s next?

Like many things in medicine there is not one right answer to that question and there continues to be a debate on the treatment of ear infections.  The many articles that have been published in past years have looked at the prevalence of certain bacteria in causing ear infections, the role of viruses as a cause of ear infections and even when and if to treat an ear infection. The articles did not seem to have a clear consensus.  You may have noticed that too if you have seen different doctors who have different opinions about otitis treatment. Now, two recent articles in the New England Journal of Medicine (Jan. 2011) once again looked at antibiotic use for the treatment of ear infections.  In two double blind, placebo controlled, randomized trials (the gold standard for studies) researchers defined otitis as the “acute onset and presence of middle-ear effusion (fluid), bulging tympanic membrane (ear drum), erythema (redness) and pain. The studies were done in Europe and the United States, and looked at whether children between 6 months and 35 months of age improved more quickly if they received an antibiotic rather than a placebo (no antibiotic). This debate had been ongoing, and both of these studies showed that the children who received antibiotics had symptom resolution more quickly than those who were given placebo.  The study also showed that those who received antibiotics were more likely to develop diarrhea. (bummer, hate those side effects!) Given these recent studies I think that the consensus would be that young children with documented ear infections should receive a course of antibiotics. That would typically mean children 2 and under. But, these studies did not look at the practice of what is called “watchful waiting” which has been advocated for older children. When a child over the age of two complains of ear pain, and is then examined and found to have an ear infection it may not always be necessary to prescribe an antibiotic. If the child is old enough to easily evaluate and does not appear ill it may be appropriate to be conservative about antibiotic use, and to provide pain relief with topical ear drops and oral pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. In many cases in an older child, the pain and infection will resolve over several days and an antibiotic will not be necessary. I often write a prescription for a parent to use if their child seems to become more uncomfortable, or the pain persists. In most cases these prescriptions have not been used. Doctors should take into account the history of previous ear infections, parental concerns as well as concerns about excessive use of antibiotics. “Watchful waiting” requires educating parents and having a discussion as to the pros and cons of antibiotic use. Each case may be a little different. Ear infections are still one of the most common reasons a child receives an antibiotic. These two articles now help clear up the debate about antibiotic use in younger children. “Watchful waiting” may still be appropriate for an older child with a simple ear infection. That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Your Teen

More Teens Fall Victim to Dating Violence

2:00

The teenage years are supposed to be filled with laughter, fun and testing the boundaries of parental control. It’s also a time when many boys and girls will start dating. For some teens, the beginning of couple relationships is about as far away from fun as it could possibly be.

Some teenagers may think that teasing and name-calling are somehow linked with a fondness for someone, and that might have been true when they were six or seven years old. However, by the time a young girl or boy reaches their teenage years, that kind of behavior can take on a much different tone. What was once an awkward attempt at gaining someone’s attention can turn into physical and sexual abuse.

According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that is happening more than you might think.

Twenty-one percent of high school girls have been physically or sexually assaulted by someone they dated -- a figure twice as high as previously estimated.

Ten percent of high school boys also reported being physically or sexually assaulted by someone they had dated.

The authors of the new report noted that the CDC has changed the way it phrases its questions about teen dating violence, leading more students to report assaults.

Sadly, teens that have experienced dating violence are at risk for other serious problems as well. Research has shown that they are more than twice as likely to consider suicide. They are also more likely to get into fights, carry a weapon, use alcohol, marijuana or cocaine and to have sex with multiple partners. Not the kind of life any parent would want for their teenager or the one that they would truly want for themselves.  

Researchers don't know if any of these events causes the others. While it's possible that dating violence could cause thoughts of suicide, it's also possible that children who are depressed are more likely than others to fall into abusive relationships, says Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston who was not involved in the study.

Assaults by romantic partners often aren't isolated events. Many teens reported being assaulted multiple times, according to the study, based on the CDC's Youth Behavior Risk Surveillance System using questionnaires answered by more than 13,000 high school students.

"If there is violence once, there is likely to be violence again," Spinks-Franklin says. "It has to be taken very seriously."

Spinks-Franklin says she has seen violence even among relationships between 10- and 11-year-olds.

"If a parent is concerned that a child is in an unhealthy relationship, they need to address it, but do it in a way that doesn't make the child shut down," she says. "They need to feel safe telling a parent."

Teens often hide the abuse from their parents, Spinks-Franklin says. Teens may not be able to confide in friends, either, because abusers sometimes isolate their victims from loved ones. Teens are sometimes more willing to talk to doctors, especially if their parents are not in the room.

Some schools have taken the lead in promoting awareness of and education on teen dating violence. Pediatricians can also discuss this important topic with their patients and parents. If time is limited, brochures in the waiting room can offer information and open the door for questions.

"This study makes it even more important for parents to ask lots of questions and get to know their teen's friends and significant others, and not ignore anything that makes them uncomfortable," says McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital. "They also shouldn't ignore any changes in their teen's behavior."

Dating violence may never be eliminated one hundred percent, but can be considerably lessoned when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies.

One of the best strategies for prevention is for parents and teens to be able to communicate about serious topics without judgmental attitudes or closed-minded opinions. Your teen wants your help even if he or she doesn’t know how to ask. They'll appreciate you being there before and when they need you.

The new study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Sources: Liz Szabo, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/03/02/teen-dating-violence-study/24127121/

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teen_dating_violence.html

Your Child

Melatonin May Help Kids with Eczema Sleep Better

2:00

Eczema is a common skin disease that affects as many as 30 percent of all kids.  It’s an itchy red rash that often causes continuous scratching. Numerous children with eczema have trouble sleeping through the night. A new study suggests that over-the-counter melatonin may help them sleep longer and better.

These sleep problems can be difficult to treat in these children, said Dr. Yung-Sen Chang, an attending physician in pediatrics at Taipei City Hospital Renai Branch in Taiwan. Antihistamines can stop working after a few days, and tranquilizers have potentially serious side effects, Chang said.

But giving children melatonin, his study found, "is safe and effective for helping children with atopic dermatitis fall asleep faster."

The link between the skin condition and insufficient sleep "has an impact on people with eczema at all ages," said Dr. Lawrence Eichenfield, chief of pediatric and adolescent dermatology at the University of California, San Diego and Rady Children's Hospital.

According to Eichenfield, it's generally established that it’s the itching that keeps people with eczema from getting enough sleep. However, Chang said that may not be the case.

Chang and colleagues discovered that patients with eczema, that had difficulty sleeping, had low levels of nocturnal melatonin. That intrigued Chang and inspired the new study.

"Melatonin is a natural human hormone with minimal adverse effects," Chang said, "so it seemed like a good choice for children."

The study was small and involved 48 children, about 22 months to 18 years old, who had eczema. The children received treatment with either an inactive placebo or a 3-milligram daily dose of melatonin at bedtime for four weeks. Thirty-eight participants then took the alternate treatment (melatonin or placebo) for another four weeks.

When the children took melatonin, the severity of eczema dipped slightly, possibly because melatonin's anti-inflammatory effect improved the skin condition, Chang said.

Also, kids taking melatonin fell asleep about 21 minutes sooner than kids taking the placebo, the findings showed.

Total nightly sleep rose by 10 minutes on average (from 380 to 390 minutes, or 6.5 hours total) in the melatonin group, while it fell by 20 minutes among those who took a placebo, according to the report.

The participants did not report any side effects. Melatonin supplements are inexpensive in the U.S.- typically under 9 cents a pill from one major supplier.

Eichenfield, who wasn't involved in the research, said the study appears to be well-designed. Melatonin hasn't been studied much as a sleep treatment for kids, he cautioned.

While Eichenfield said melatonin may turn out to be helpful, he said there are a broad set of other tools available to treat eczema and minimize its effect on children. He suggested tackling the skin condition first to try to mitigate the sleep issues.

Chang recommended that parents talk to their child's doctor before starting melatonin. As for adults, melatonin may help them, too. But more studies are needed, Chang said.

The study was published in a November online edition of the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Source: Randy Dotinga, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20151124/melatonin-might-help-sleepless-kids-with-eczema-study-finds

 

Your Baby

New Guidelines To Help Prevent Peanut Allergies

1:45

Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies. Even trace amounts can cause a severe reaction in a child that is allergic to the legume. Parents may be able to reduce the chance that their children will develop peanut allergies by introducing the food early on, as young as four to six months of age, experts now say.

The results of several studies on the positive benefits of introducing peanuts into a child’s diet, early in their life, are encouraging new recommendations from allergy experts.

“Guidance regarding when to introduce peanut into the diet of an infant is changing, based on new research that shows that early introduction around 4-6 months of life, after a few other foods have been introduced into the infant’s diet, is associated with a significantly reduced risk of such infants developing peanut allergy,” said Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, a pediatrician and co-director of the Food Challenge and Research Unit at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, Colorado, who coauthored the update.

“This is an amazing opportunity to help potentially reduce the number of cases of peanut allergy, but this can only be done with the cooperation of parents and healthcare providers,” Greenhawt told Reuters Health.

Research used for the restructured recommendations comes from the Learning Early about Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study. In that trial, infants at high risk for peanut allergies who were exposed to peanuts early were less likely to develop an allergy by the time they reached five years of age. The findings from that study were published last year in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The guidelines offer three approaches to introducing peanuts to infants- depending on their risk of allergy.

-       Infants with severe eczema, egg allergy or both are at high risk for peanut allergy. They should be exposed to peanuts as early as four to six months to reduce the risk of allergy. Beforehand, however, these infants should undergo a skin prick test. If the test yields no welt or a small welt of up to 2mm, parents can introduce peanuts at home. But if the test yields a welt of 3mm or larger, peanuts should be introduced in the doctor’s office - or not at all if the welt is large and an allergist recommends avoidance.

-       Infants with mild to moderate eczema who have already started solid foods should be exposed to peanuts at six months of age.

-       Infants without eczema or any food allergy are at low risk, and parents can introduce peanuts in an age-appropriate form at any time starting at age six months.

Giving an infant a whole peanut is not recommended because they can choke on them. However, there are ways to prepare peanuts that can be introduced safely.

Another coauthor of the new guidelines, Dr. Amal Assa’ad, a pediatrician and director of the FARE Food Allergy Center of Excellence at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, told Reuters Health, “Several appropriate forms of peanut-containing foods are creamy peanut butter that can be made softer or more liquefied by adding warm water and let it cool, or serving corn puffs containing peanut. For older infants, peanut butter can be added to apple sauce or other fruit purees.”

Parents should consult with an allergist or their pediatrician before giving their infant peanuts in any form.

While the news about early peanut allergy intervention has been noted by various medical, media and social networks, reliable strategies for how to determine who should and should not get the therapy and when to start it, have not been available. These new guidelines help answer those questions.

The updated guidelines will be published online in January on the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website; in the meantime, the site provides the current 2010 guidelines on peanut and other food allergies.

Story source: Rob Goodler, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-allergies-peanuts-idUSKBN1361VW

 

Your Teen

Are Energy Drinks Rotting Your Teen’s Teeth?

2:00 to read

A lot of parents know that too many high sugar sodas are not only hazardous to their child’s waistline and health, but they can also cause cavities. But what about the energy drinks teens are gulping down? A new study suggests those drinks could be stripping the enamel right off their teeth.   

In a study published in the May/June issue of General Dentistry, researchers have looked for the first time at the effects of energy drinks on teeth. It turns out there's often a lot of citric acid in the drinks.

To give drinks a long shelf life and to enhance flavors, preservatives are added. It’s the preservatives that are very good at stripping the enamel off of teeth.

Dentists are especially worried about teens. 30 to 50 percent are now drinking energy and sports drinks and losing enamel. Once it's gone, teeth are more prone to cavities and more likely to decay.

"We are well aware of the damage that sugar does in the mouth and in the whole body — the role it can play in obesity, diabetes, etc," says Poonam Jain, an associate professor in the School of Dental Medicine at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, and the lead author of the study. "But the average consumer is not very well aware that acid does all kinds of damage, too."

To measure just how energy and sports drinks affect teeth, the researchers looked at the fluoride levels, pH, and something called "titratable acidity" of 13 sports drinks and nine energy drinks, including Gatorade and Red Bull.

The researchers then measured how much enamel the drinks took off teeth, dousing sliced-up molars in a petri dish with the beverages for 15 minutes, followed by artificial saliva for two hours. This was repeated four times a day for five days.

The researchers found that teeth lost enamel with exposure to both kinds of drinks, but energy drinks took off a lot more enamel than sports drinks.

Drink labels list citric acid in the ingredients, but they don’t have to show the precise amount.

The American Beverage Association (ABA) was quick to respond to the study.  

"It is irresponsible to blame foods, beverages or any other single factor for enamel loss and tooth decay (dental caries or cavities)," the ABA said in a statement responding to Jain's paper. "Science tells us that individual susceptibility to both dental cavities and tooth erosion varies depending on a person's dental hygiene behavior, lifestyle, total diet and genetic make-up."

"This study was not conducted on humans and in no way mirrors reality," the ABA noted in its statement. "People do not keep any kind of liquid in their mouths for 15 minute intervals over five day periods. Thus, the findings of this paper simply cannot be applied to real life situations."

Jain is concerned about health effects beyond cavities. She says consuming a lot of citric acid can lead to loss of bone mass and kidney stones. "This has become a big concern because people are drinking more of these drinks and less milk," she says.

Dentist Dr. Jennifer Bone, spokesperson for Academy of General Dentistry, the organization that publishes the journal, said in the statement that teens and adults should curb their intake of these types of drinks. If they're going to drink one anyway, she recommends they chew sugar-free gum or rinse their mouth with water after drinking the beverage.

"Both tactics increase saliva flow, which naturally helps to return the acidity levels in the mouth to normal," Bone said.

Sources: http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/health/main204.shtml?tag=hdr;cnav

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health

Your Baby

Babies Can Tell the Difference and Sameness of Objects

1:45

How old are we when we begin to learn to tell when objects are alike or different?  Scientists involved in a new study say that with a little training, babies as young as seven months can discern whether objects are similar or not.

Previous studies have shown that toddlers have this ability, but researchers at Northwestern University, wanted to see if children could actually determine the difference at an even earlier age.  The scientists were the first to discover that infants can actually make this remarkable determination – long before they have the language skills to express abstract ideas.

“This suggests that a skill key to human intelligence is present very early in human development, and that language skills are not necessary for learning abstract relations,” said study author, Alissa Ferry, a brain development researcher.

To accomplish this, the scientists started out to see if seven--month-old infants could comprehend sameness and difference between two objects by showing them either two Elmo dolls or an Elmo doll and a toy camel until their observation time ran out.

They then had the infants look longer at pairs that were either the “same” or “different,” including test pairs composed of new items. The team saw infants who had learned the “same” relation looked longer at test pairs showing the “different” relation and vice versa. The team said this indicates the infants had figured out the abstract relation and recognized when the relation changed.

“We found that infants are capable of learning these relations,” Ferry said. “Additionally, infants exhibit the same patterns of learning as older children and adults — relational learning benefits from seeing multiple examples of the relation and is impeded when attention is drawn to the individual objects composing the relation.”

The researchers also believe that because the infants could learn the difference and the sameness of objects before they could speak, that this is a separate skill that humans need and develop early in their existence.

“The infants in our study were able to form an abstract same or different relation after seeing only 6-9 examples,” said study author Dedre Gentner, a professor of psychology at Northwestern. “It appears that relational learning is something that humans, even very young humans, are much better at than other primates.”

Source: Brett Smith, http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1113398144/infants-can-compare-and-contrast-objects-study-052715/

 

 

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

Potty training can be tricky.

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