Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size
A
A
A

Baby Einstein: Tots Can Do Math?

Babies Too Young to Walk Show Early Inkling of Math Skills
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 7, 2006 -- A few months after birth, babies may be too young to walk and talk, but math skills may not be out of the question.

Babies who are 6 to 9 months old may have fledgling math skills, spotting math errors in a puppet show.

"These findings show that the brain network involved in error detection can be identified in infancy," write Andrea Berger, PhD, and colleagues.

Berger works in Israel at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The study appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Berger's team isn't suggesting that even the smartest infant is ready for hard-core math. You've got to crawl before you walk with any skill.

But "our data indicate that the basic brain circuitry involved in the detection of errors is already functional before the end of the first year of life," the researchers write.

Good Sports

Berger's team studied 14 baby boys and 10 baby girls aged 6-9 months (average age: 7 months).

Each baby wore a special head net studded with 128 sensors tracking brain activity. Picture 128 little hexagonal sensors on the tots' heads, with a veil of wires trailing down their necks.

The babies wore the head nets in the comfort of their mother's or father's lap. Thirty-three other babies fussed or got too tired for the test; they were sent home.

While wearing the head nets, the babies watched a videotaped puppet show.

First, two puppets appeared and then were hidden by a screen. A hand reached behind the screen and removed a puppet. Lastly, the screen was removed.

Starting with two puppets and taking one away leaves one puppet. But sometimes, an unexpected second puppet was there when the screen was removed.

When that happened, the babies gazed at the screen for a slightly longer time than when only one puppet appeared (slightly over 8 seconds with two puppets; nearly 7 seconds with one).

How Does 2 - 1 = 2?

The one-second time gap isn't huge, but it didn't seem to be due to chance, write Berger and colleagues.

What's more, the babies' brain activity when they saw the wrong number of puppets mirrored adult brain activity in processing errors, the researchers note.

The researchers can't tell what the babies were thinking. It's impossible to know if they consciously thought, "Hey, where did that second puppet come from?"

Babies are too young at 6-9 months of age to correct errors, the researchers note.

But the ability to spot such errors was previously thought to develop later on, at 3 years of age, write Berger and colleagues.

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow