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Piaget Cognitive Development: A Quick Guide

Piaget Cognitive Development. From infancy through childhood, parents physicians place great emphasis on physical milestones. Walking, crawling, and the first tooth peeking through pink gums are the tangible manifestations of growth. However, the mental aspects are just as significant. Although the inner workings of the brain are invisible to the naked eye, promoting a child’s cognitive development is essential to their thought processes, memory, problem-solving, and decision making well into their adult years.

Cognitive Development

Cognitive Skills To Piaget Cognitive Development

To understand Piaget cognitive development, one must first be aware of cognitive skills. Cognitive skills are skills pertaining to cognition—the way we acquire knowledge about the environment and the world that surrounds us. Processing information is possible because of the various cognitive skills that allow us to interpret perceptions of the five senses: what we hear, see, touch, taste, and smell. Cognitive skills consist of the following:

These skills are involved in all daily tasks such as answering the phone, responding to a friend’s message, or even watching television.

What is Piaget Cognitive Development?

Cognitive development is the neurological and psychological development of the various functions of thinking. It entails applying cognitive skills to consciously interpret one’s surrounding environment. As a person matures, so does their ability to engage in higher thinking processes like problem-solving, emotional regulation, learning, and remembering. The term describes the brain’s development as it pertains to cognition.

According to Piaget cognitive development, there are set age-appropriate milestones spanning from infancy into adulthood. Reaching these milestones on time indicates optimal development. The concept first originated in the early 1900s when IQ tests were proposed as an accurate measurement of intelligence.

Areas of Piaget Cognitive Development

Cognitive development includes basic components of thinking. For optimal cognitive development, it is best to focus on the areas of information processing, intelligence, reasoning, memory, and language.

  • Information Processing—As the brain works in a sequence, it receives input through the senses, processes that information, and then receives output.
  • Intelligence—The mental capacity to learn, reason, plan, solve problem and comprehend complex ideas.
  • Reasoning—Applying and establishing facts, beliefs, and information.
  • Memory Part of the brain that stores and retrieve information as needed.
  • Language—The process in which children understand and communicate language.

Piaget Cognitive Development: 4 Stages

Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was a Swiss psychologist who constructed the most widely accepted theory of cognitive development known as Piaget Cognitive Development. While there are numerous theories, Piaget Cognitive Development provides an accurate depiction of the evolution of a child’s thinking processes. His theory was inspired by observing his children. He assumed that children’s intellect develops through accommodation, which is the process of taking in and altering information from their environment, and assimilation, which is how humans relate new information to previously existing information. It is concerned with all children and focuses on the progression of development instead of learning miscellaneous behaviors. A series of four stages mark the progression of cognitive development beginning in infancy and throughout childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood.

Sensorimotor Stage – Birth to 2 Years

The sensorimotor stage of cognitive development starts at the time of birth and ends as a toddler. Cognitive growth happens rapidly as the infant familiarizes itself with their reality. Cognitive abilities remain limited, but the child learns to separate their bodies from the environment through their senses and reflexes. In the sensorimotor stage, they respond to the sudden influx of new stimuli: noises, movements, people, and emotions.

The sensorimotor stage is divided into six substages:

  • Reflexes: Birth to One Month—A child’s intelligence is rooted in action. The child acquires knowledge in the reflex stage by adapting to their environment. This includes all natural “instinct” behaviors upon birth.
  • Primary Circular Reactions: One to Four Months—Reflex actions, like sucking a thumb, are intentionally repeated after the child realizes they are pleasurable. Primary circular reactions refer only to reactions within the body.
  • Secondary Circular Reactions: Four to Eight Months—Actions that are not reflex based originate in the child’s behavior. The child’s action results in a preferred event in the environment, rather than their body, and they seek to recreate the event by engaging in the behaviors that precipitated the event.
  • Coordination of Secondary Circular Reactions: Eight to Twelve Months—Cause and effect relationships are correlated with the child’s behaviors in the previous stages. They intentionally interact with the environment to fulfill their needs.
  • Tertiary Circular Reactions: Twelve to Eighteen Months—Minor change to cognition comes about as the child purposefully alters their actions to solve problems. Tertiary circular reactions have a trial-and-error foundation.
  • Mental Combinations: Eighteen to Twenty-four Months—Mental combinations concludes the period in which children understand their environment solely through actions. They associate symbols and language with their environment and form basic sentences.

Pre-operational Stage – 2 to 7 years

The pre-operational stage starts as a toddler at age two and continues until seven years of age. This stage is characterized by the child’s eventual expansion towards logic, but they still are unable to think logically or separate ideas because the egocentric mindset which surfaces in this stage limits their intellectual abilities. Children in the preoperational stage think in a manner that is primarily concerned with self. Their thoughts, perceptions, and ideas are indistinguishable from those of other people. They only see the world through their own point of view and cannot consider differing perspectives. Ecocentrism is the reason why young children experience conflict with their peers. While language is central to the pre-operational stage, the children do not use language to communicate with others and resolve conflict, but to make their thinking known.

The pre-operational stage is divided into two substages.

  • Symbolic Function— Children possess the ability to think about an object that is not in their immediate view. They attach symbols to their toys and caregivers in which they have associated with comfort.  Attempts at art and expression through play are manifestations of symbolic function.
  • Intuitive Thought—Thinking changes from symbolic to intuitive with the use of primitive reasoning. Intuitive thought refers to the vast knowledge children learn yet struggle to apply. They become curious about the world, asking many questions.

Concrete Operational Stage – 7 to 11 years

The concrete operational stage is the turning point in a child’s cognitive development. It begins at roughly seven years of age and is defined by the development of organized and rational thinking. Children begin to understand rules and use operations to logically solve problems. As children mature in the concrete operatorial stage, they apply logic exclusively to physical objects. They cannot turn their thinking towards hypothetical situations, only their concrete experiences.

The cognitive development during the concrete operational stage is cornerstone to the education of school-age children. They refine their cognitive abilities to remember information, and then to organize that information logically. Selective attention keeps them focused on a single task, despite distractions. Egocentrism that was previously prominent is eliminated in the concrete operational stage. Children start to see multiple viewpoints.

Although there are no substages, other processes (known as operations) in the concrete operational stage are:

  • Decentering—Considering all aspects of a problem in order to solve it.
  • Seriation—Sorting objects according to its characteristics (i.e. color, size, shape, etc.).
  • Transitivity—Recognizing logical relationships between objects in serial order.  
  • Classification—The ability to identify objects by their size, appearance, or characteristics.
  • Conservation—The length or quantity of an object does not dictate the appearance and arrangement.

Formal Operational Stage – 12 and Up

The formal operational stage is the last stage in Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development. It begins in adolescence around the onset of puberty and lasts into adulthood. These young teenagers in the formal operational stage undergo rapid transformations in their cognitive development. This stage introduces the potential for abstract thought. They think about objects and situations hypothetically, which entails making inferences about situations that are “possibilities.” The former trial-and-error thought process is abandoned for problem-solving through deductive reasoning. They test solutions based on hypotheses.

How To Promote Piaget Cognitive Development

Each child develops at his or her own pace. However, they are not entirely on their own in their progress. Interactions with adults who serve as role models and other children facilitate cognitive development. Despite the child’s stage, incorporating these key activities into a daily routine are conducive to cognitive development.

“Play” with the 5 Senses

Sensory play is any hands-on learning activity that stimulates the five senses—seeing, hearing, touching, or smelling. This form of play of the five senses strengthens the neuron pathways in the brain. A neuron is a specialized brain cell that sends chemical messages to the nerves throughout the nervous system. Sensory play refines the efficiency of the pathways. As a result, the brain responds to the environment and can successfully complete more complex skills.

Exploring the environment through sensory play can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Playdough, building blocks, simple puzzles or board games, singing and reading aloud are some examples.

Sensory Play For Cognitive Development

Establish Routine

The technical definition of routine represents the steps taken to complete the tasks scheduled throughout the day. Waking up and eating breakfast before going to class, and later returning home to finish homework and watch television constitutes as routine. Everyday routines differ depending on the activity. Routines are crucial to cognitive development because it teaches children how to observe transition cues, predict, and become flexible when routines deviate from the norm.

Open-ended Questions and Statements

 Typical questions and statements are closed-ended—requiring only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer or a one-word response, whereas open-ended questions require in-depth answers. Thought out responses encourage children to partake in conversation. Children must think creatively, broadening the use of language and the cognitive skills.

Open-ended questions and statements begin with:

  • “Why do you think…?”
  • “What if…?”
  • “Tell me about…”

Visual Aids

Visual aids such as illustrations, charts, and three-dimensional models improve cognitive development help the child understand the information presented. Visual learning allows the brain to more easily recall details, as they are concrete.

The type of visual aid provided should be catered to the developmental stage. Drawings and illustrations are best for toddlerhood and early childhood, while three-dimensional models in middle childhood. The visual aids increase in complexity throughout adolescence.  


Language is an integral part of cognitive development. Consistently communicating language skills to children fosters their cognitive development. Speak to children ages five and up in complete sentences with challenging vocabulary words. Ensure to explain the context of the words to demonstrate proper use.

Cognitive Development: A Complex Process

The process a child makes between making little sounds to talking, from crying at everything to maturing is incredible. That process is known as cognitive development. What is cognitive development? What are the four big stages of cognitive development? What are the theories of cognitive development? What are the cultural influences and history of cognitive development? What are some tips to help parents with cognitive development during different stages of development?

Cognitive Development

What is cognitive development?

Cognitive development, also known as intellectual development, is defined as the construction of thought processes- this includes decision making, memory, and problem-solving, throughout life from childhood to adulthood. Cognitive development is the topic of scientific study of fields such as psychology and neuroscience. It focuses on one’s cognitive development throughout the growth process. For example, it takes a specific look at language learning, information processing, perceptual skills, and conceptual resources to other processes that develop more in an adult brain. Another example could be that how a child wakes up and the process of waking up for a child is different than that of an adult.

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What are the 4 big stages of cognitive development?

Sensorimotor: Birth – 18-24 months.

The sensorimotor stage is the stage that lasts from birth to two-years-old. In this stage, behaviors don’t have logic or make sense. For example, crying because a child can’t find their blanket. The behaviors move gradually from acting upon the inherited reflexes and behaviors to interacting with the surrounding environment more reasonably. The sensorimotor stage is commonly broken down into six mini-stages depending on the child’s age.

Cognitive Development

Birth to one-month-old: everybody is born with innate and inherited reflexes that they use to gain understanding and knowledge about their surroundings. For instance, sucking and grasping.

Between one and four-months-old: Children repeat behaviors that happen due to their reflexes. For example, their reflex is to grasp the raddle and then they simply repeat that gesture. Children try to create schemes, groups of similar actions or thoughts, to create assimilation and accommodation to adapt better to the world around them.

  • Assimilation means when a child responds to a new situation in a way that is already consistent with an existing scheme. For instance, when a child gets a new toy such as a teddy bear, they often suck or put the toy in their mouths. Sucking is an existing scheme that the child is applying to the new situation of having a teddy bear
  • means when a child modifies, changes, or creates an entirely new scheme to deal with a new situation. For instance, an infant opens its mouth wider than usual to make way to the paw of the teddy bear.

Between five and eight-months-old:- When a child has with external stimuli that they find pleasurable, they naturally try to reenact and recreate that experience. For example, when a child hits the mobile above them and it spins or makes noise, that’s pleasurable to the child and they repeat the action because the result is fun. This is the point in which habits are formed from general schemes. However, at this stage, children still can’t focus on multiple things at once.

From eight to twelve-months-old-: Behaviors happen for a reason rather than by chance. A child can begin to understand that an action causes a reaction. The child can also begin to understand object permanence. That is to say, if a baby is playing with a raddle and you put a blanket on top of the raddle, the baby begins to understand that the raddle is still there, under the blanket, rather than thinking the raddle completely disappeared.

From one-year-old to eighteen-months-old- At the stage, actions happen deliberately with a slight variation. For instance, a baby can drum on a pot of object with a wooden spoon but also drum on the table or on the floor.

From eighteen-months-old to two-years-old- children begin to pretend play and construct mental symbols. For example, a child is mixing together some ingredients but they lack a spoon. They find something else to use as a makeshift spoon. Infants begin to act with intelligence rather than habit.

Preoperational: Toddlers (18-24 months) -early childhood (age 7)

The preoperational stage begins once a child gains the mental ability to grasp reality and lasts from age 2 until ages 6 or 7. There are two ways to characterize this stage according to Piaget. In his earlier works, he described a child’s thought process in this stage as having egocentrism, animism, and the like in charge and governing the child. In other words, the child, being egocentric, acts in his own favor or sees a situation only in their point of view and doesn’t understand the perceptions of others. The child, being animistic, believes that inanimate objects are lifelike with human emotions, intentions, and thoughts which is why children love playing with dolls and adults often don’t. Children also often use symbols in this stage which can be seen when they play and pretend.  

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Concrete operational. Ages 7 to 12.

The Concrete Operational Stage lasts from ages 6/7 to ages 12/13 depending on the child. Within this stage, a child’s cognitive ambition is characterized by reality. According to Piaget, it’s the same principle that can actually be used to discern many behaviors. Another big achievement cognitively in this stage is conservation. For example, a child looks at two beakers filled with the same amount of liquid, but one beaker is shorter than the other. A child in the preoperational stage could probably say that the taller beaker has more liquid, but the concrete operational child could say that both beakers contain the same amount of liquid. The ability to reason also begins to develop in this stage because of the principle of conservation.

 Formal operational. Adolescence through adulthood.

In the Formal Operational Stage, which lasts from age 12/13 until adulthood, is when people advance from logical reasoning with concrete examples to logical reasoning with abstract examples. Young adults tend to view themselves more in the future rather than the “here and now”. Some scientists believe that this stage can be further broken down into the early formal operational stage in which thoughts are fantasies or the late formal operational stage in which life experiences change how realistic those fantasy thoughts are.

Theories of cognitive development

Piaget’s Theory

The founder of Piaget’s Theory, Jean Piaget (1896-1980) thought that people go through different stages of development that allowed them to think in more and new complex ways. These stages include the sensorimotor stage, the preoperational stage, the concrete operational stage, and the Formal Operational Stage. There is some criticism for Piaget’s theory many that his theory has fallen out of favor. For instance, Piaget said that a young child cannot conserve numbers. However, many parents know and many experiments have proven otherwise. Furthermore, Piaget’s stages end in young adulthood whereas there are further stages of adult cognitive development given by other scientists in the field such as Robert Kegan.

Neo-Piagetian theories

There are, of course, non-Piagetian theories concerning cognitive development which emphasize the roles of information processing systems and mechanisms such as the working memory and attention control. These scientists suggest that the Piagetian stages work more a strengthening of control mechanisms and amplifying the storage capacity of the working memory.

Core Systems of Cognition

There are several skills that are involved in and are necessary to the cognitive development of a brain. Empiricists study how these “advanced” skills are learned in such a little amount of time. There is a debate that they are learned either by domain-specific cognition or general cognition learning devices. These researchers have set a number of “core domains” that suggest children have an innate ability to develop these.

  • Space. Young children can have navigation skills. There is evidence that these navigation and directional skills are connected to language development skills between 3 and 5 years old.
  • Numbers. Infants have been shown to have two different mechanisms to confront numbers. One deals with the larger numbers in a more approximate way while the other system deals with smaller numbers, known as subitizing.
  • Essentialism. Young children think of animals, plants, and other biological entities in an essentialistic way. They expect these things to have certain traits which gives them a certain “essence”.
  • Language Acquisition. A widely studied field, the traditional way to view it is that language is developed due to the deterministic, human-only genetic make-up and processes. The other theories believe that social interaction and experience is what helps us develop language.
  • Visual Perception. There is evidence that a child who is only 72 hours old has a depth perception for complex things such as biological motion. However, the evidence isn’t clear as to whether the visual experience within the first 72 hours contributes to this ability to whether it’s already developed when the baby leaves the womb.

Whoft’s Hypothesis

Benjamin Whoft, who lived from 1897 until 1941, thought that a person’s thinking depended on the content and structure of their language. That is to say, Whoft hypothesized that language determines how we think and perceive things. For instance, it’s thought that the Egyptians who wrote right to left thought quite differently than the Greeks who wrote left to right even though the countries are not far from each other in geographical location. Whorf’s belief was so strict that he thought that if a word didn’t exist in a language, then that person had no idea of that object’s existence. This theory went so far as to play a role in Goerge Orwell’s famous book, Animal Farm when the pig leaders eliminated words from the citizen’s vocabulary in order to render them incapable of realizing what the citizens were missing. The criticism is that people can still be aware of a concept or object even if they don’t have the vocabulary to describe it.

Quine’s hypothesis

Willard Van Orman Quine, who lived from 1908 to 2000, believed that there are biases that are innate and conceptual which enable language acquisition, beliefs, and concepts. His theory goes by nativist philosophical traditions which other philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant, also went by.

Cultural Influences of cognitive development

Cognitive Development

Culture shapes and changes everything including perspective, thoughts, and more. Culture can influence so far as to have an effect on brain structure which then influences our interpretation of culture. There is research that has previously shown that one’s level of independence differs on cultural context. For instance and in general, Eastern Asia cultures are more interdependent compared to Western cultures which are more independent generally. Another study compared the brain of Japanese-English bilingual to American-English monolingual brains and responses in children while the child tried to understand another’s intention through cartoon tasks and false-belief stories. The study found universal activation in the bilateral region of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. The study concluded with the suggestion that the brain’s neural activities are culturally independent, not universal.

Tips on cognitive development

  • Sing songs and encourage the child to sing with you. This helps to create associations between images and words as well as promotes memory development.
  • Use the Alphabet Game. This involves cutting out alphabet pieces and taping them throughout the house. Have the child search for the alphabet pieces in order. Have them then tape up the alphabet while singing the song to associate image and word identification.
  • Shape Practice is using colorful, fun, or ball games which can help your child manipulate shares such as puzzles or playing with Legos.
  • Noise Identification helps teach a child to distinguish and identify sounds throughout the world- which differ greatly. It could be a tap running, birds singing, owl cooing, or a dishwasher grinding. Ask the child to identify which noise is what and then to relate them to actions in their daily environment.
  • The decision Game is all about making decisions. Ask the child if they prefer a burger or pizza for dinner; the brown sweater or green coat. By giving the child choices and enabling them to make decisions, they will feel more independent and this will facilitate their overall cognitive development as they grow.

History of cognitive development

The history of cognitive development goes a little something like this… Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the French philosopher, wrote On Education in 1762. Within the writing, he discusses childhood development as being three different stages. In the first stage, which goes from 0 to age 12, a child is guided by their impulses and emotions naturally. The second stage, which lasts from age 12 until age 15, is when the child’s reason begins to develop. Afterword, in stage three, which is from age 15 and up, a child begins to develop into an adult.

After Rousseau came along James Sully, an English psychologist, who wrote numerous books on childhood development. Two of these books, The Studies of Childhood and Children’s Way from 1897 used actual detailed studies he did himself.

After Sully comes Lev Vygotsky, a Soviet psychologist, came up with a theory known as “the zone of proximal development”, also known as ZPD, which says that a child’s main activity should be to play in order to develop their emotions and cognitive development.

After Vygotsky, Maria Montessori had her fundamental research published in her book, The Discovery of the Child in 1946. She discusses the Four Planes of Development: from birth to age 6, 6-12, 12-18, and 18-24. She developed the Montessori Method to help teach in each cognitive developmental stage.

After Montessori, Jean Piaget came along and tried to be the most successful in cognitive development. Piaget was the first psychologist to make a name for the scientific field of cognitive development. His biggest contribution to the field of study was his stage theory of child cognitive development. Sadly, he died in 1980.

Lawrence Kohlberg, who died shortly after Piaget, wrote the stages of moral development which took a look at Piaget’s findings and incorporated Kohlberg’s ideas, too. His notable works were Moral Stages and Moralization: The Cognitive-Development Approach (1976) and Essays on Moral Development (1981).

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Development of Cognitive Skills; Piaget’s theory.

Crawl before you walk, walk before you run! When it comes to development, this phrase is certainly true. Before children learn to talk and are taught to problem solve at school, right from birth, they begin to develop novel ways of communicating and exploring the world around them. They cry to tell you they’re hungry, and go through a stage where it seems they’re trying to eat everything (I’m sure the parents reading this can relate)! These practices enable babies to make sense of the world. As they get older, their way of exploring rapidly evolves. As well as developing the ability to walk and talk, our development of cognitive skills (memory, attention, language, reading comprehension, fine motor and gross motor skills) are developed throughout our childhood.

French Psychologist Jean Piaget, proposed the development of cognitive skills during childhood occurs in 4 distinct stages. Each stage builds upon the previous one. Piaget’s theory was ground breaking at the time, as it was previously thought that children didn’t develop cognitive skills until they began to acquire language. Piaget challenged this, as he found that children explore the world around them before they acquire language by using their different senses. This is known as the sensorimotor stage, which is one of four stages that classify a child’s learning stages. The other three stages are known as the pre-operational stage, concrete operational stage and the formal operational stage. During each stage, children acquire new cognitive skills, whilst developing skills they have acquired in previous stages.

Cognitive development

Development of Cognitive Skills: Sensorimotor stage

This stage lasts from birth to 2 years.

In this stage, children learn about the world using their senses and manipulating objects. Here a child’s intelligence is based on their motor and sensory knowledge. During this stage, children learn of object permanence, i.e. although a toy is out of sight, it still exists. This information is extremely important as it prepares children to be able to name objects.

3 months– Infants are able to recognise faces and imitate facial expressions (above).

6 months– Infants can imitate sounds, recognise their parents and display fear towards strangers. They understand the difference between animate and inanimate objects. Between four and seven months, children begin to recognise their own name.

9 months– Infants imitate gestures and actions. The understand simple words like ‘no’ and begin to test their parents’ response to their behaviour.

12 months– Infants can follow moving objects. They can speak between two to four simple words like ‘mama’ and ‘dada’. They can imitate animal sounds and begin to display attachments to objects such as a toy or blanket. At this age, they will also begin to display separation anxiety.

18 months– Vocabulary increases to around 50 words. Children begin to identify body parts and display sense of ownership. They can follow simple instructions (e.g. picking up toys and putting them in the box). They begin to show an understanding of discipline and have knowledge of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.

Development of Cognitive Skills: Pre-operational stage

This stage lasts from 2 – 7 years.

A child’s vocabulary is around 150 words. Around this time, children learn around 10 new words a day, and begin to understand emotions such as love, trust and fear. Children also begin to learn through pretend play, or “make believe”. However, their view of others and logic isn’t well understood, and children have a self-centered view of the world. In this stage, children begin to use their imaginary and memory skills, and begin to develop their social interaction skills and play cooperatively with children their own age. They will begin to develop their cognitive abilities. Children learn to read, develop routines and display an increased attention span. At the beginning of this stage, children develop their attention, long term and short term memory. As children get older, they learn to control their attention and use their cognitive abilities to help them solve problems and achieve their goals. Also during this stage of development, auditory processing is further refined. This is highly important in improving reading skills.

Imaginative play

Development of Cognitive Skills: Concrete operational stage

This stage is from 7-11 years.

During this stage, children learn to be less egocentric and self centered. They begin to think about the thoughts and feelings of others, and they are more aware of their own thoughts and feelings and the rules around sharing them with others. Children are also able to think in a more logic manner and see the world from the view of others. However, at this stage, a child’s thought is often rigid, therefore they tend to struggle with abstract concepts. Here children learn that things, such as volume and weight, can stay the same despite changes in the appearance of objects. For example, two different glasses can hold the same volume of water. Also, at this stage, children’s attention span begins to increase with age. At the age of six, the child may be able to focus on a task for around 15 minutes. At the age of nine, children can focus on a task for around an hour.

Concrete operational stage

Development of Cognitive Skills: Formal operational stage

This stage is from 11 years and upwards.

Children are able to better understand logic and abstract ideas. They will start to reason and think about abstract ideas, and implement these ideas into their lives. They are also able to see multiple solutions to problems, and begin to look at the world in a scientific manner. During this stage, Adolescents display independent problem-solving skills, and are able to understand abstract ideas such puns, proverbs, metaphors, analogies, philosophy and maths. Children also learn to apply general information to specific situations. During adolescence we undergo cognitive transition, which means that the way we think becomes more advanced, more efficient, and more complex. Thought is no longer limited to what is real, it is expanded to include the hypothetical. During this stage we begin thinking about the process of thinking, known as metacognition. Thought becomes multidimensional; we are able to look at multiple outcomes to a specific problem, which allows us to think rationally and analyze the problem. This will hopefully help us to make well-informed decisions.

Every child will progress through each stage in order, but it’s important to remember that each child is different, so that manner or time that it take a child to develop these skills may vary- and that’s OK! Progression through the 4 stages of development can occur at different rates; some faster than others. We all have a unique cognitive profile, some cognitive skills can be weaker than others. A cognitive assessment can help us to identify which of our cognitive skills are weaker. This enables us to tailor our cognitive training, and improve our weaker skills. If you are looking to strengthen your cognitive skills, why not try some brain games! If you are concerned that about your cognitive abilities or the development of a child, it is important to seek professional advice.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, get in touch below! 🙂

A long childhood feeds the energy-hungry human brain

A long childhood feeds the energy-hungry human brain

Humans are late bloomers when compared with other primates. For example, they spend almost twice as long in childhood and adolescence as chimps, gibbons, or macaques do. Researchers claim to have found out why human children grow slowly and childhood lasts so long in a new study.

The study led by anthropologists at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on August 25th 2014, shows that a child’s brain is “an energy monster,” consuming twice as much glucose, the energy that fuels the brain, as that of a full-grown adult.

Horses are up and running soon after birth and thoroughbreds are racing by age two. Chimps are adults at between 12 and 15 years. But human toddlers seem to grow particularly slowly and researchers believe this is because the brain claims most of the calories consumed.

“Our findings suggest that our bodies can’t afford to grow faster during the toddler and childhood years because a huge quantity of resources is required to fuel the developing human brain,” said Prof. Christopher Kuzawa a professor of anthropology at Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “As humans we have so much to learn, and that learning requires a complex and energy-hungry brain,” he added.

First, the researchers used a 1987 study of PET scans of 36 people between infancy and 30 years of age to estimate age trends in glucose uptake by three major sections of the brain parts. Then, to calculate how uptake varied for the entire brain, they combined that data with the brain volumes and ages of more than 400 individuals between 4.5 years of age and adulthood, gathered from a National Institutes of Health study and others. Finally, to link age and brain glucose uptake to body size, they used an age series of brain and body weights of more than 1000 individuals from birth to adulthood, gathered in 1978.

Kuzawa found that when the brain demands lots of energy, body growth slows. For example, the period of highest brain glucose uptake, between 4.5 and 5 years of age, coincides with the period of lowest weight gain. This strongly suggested that the brain’s high energy needs during childhood are compensated for by slower growth.

However, the costs of the human cognitive development are still unknown. “The mid-childhood peak in brain costs has to do with the fact that synapses, connections in the brain, max out at this age, when we learn so many of the things we need to know to be successful humans,” said Kuzawa.

“To compensate for these heavy energy demands of our big brains, children grow more slowly and are less physically active during this age range,” said co-author William Leonard of the Northwestern University.

“Our findings strongly suggest that humans evolved to grow slowly during this time in order to free up fuel for our expensive, busy childhood brains,” Leonard added.

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Newborn babies’ brains grow one percent a day

Newborn babies’ brains grow one percent a day

Newborn babies’ brains grow one percent a day

A baby’s brain is a mystery whose secrets scientists are beginning to unravel. The first study of its kind shows that newborn babies’ brains are about a third the size of an adult’s at birth, and grow at an average rate of 1% a day to reach just over half the size of an adult’s brain within three months.

The study, carried out by researchers from the University of California, the University of Hawaii and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, aimed to map newborns’ brains during their first three months of life. This cognitive research was published on August 11th, 2014 in the peer-reviewed medical journal, JAMA Neurology.

For centuries doctors have estimated brain growth using measuring tape to chart a baby’s head circumference over time. Any changes to normal growth patterns are monitored closely as they can suggest problems with development. But as head shapes vary, these tape measurements are not always accurate.

Thus for this study, researchers used a new scanning technique to measure the early development of newborn brains. They set out to map growth trajectories in the brains of newborn babies during the first three months of their life. Using a series of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, the volume of multiple brain regions and the growth rate of the newborn brain could be calculated. MRI works by executing high-quality images of a range of brain regions, without the use of radiation. One huge advantage of earlier charting of the size and rate of brain growth is that it could help to detect potential signs of developmental disorders in the brain, such as autism. If a developmental disorder is seen to be present, treatment will be more effective than if detected at a later stage.

Researchers scanned the brains of 87 healthy newborns 211 times, starting when the babies were only 2 days old. They found that the newborn brain grows extraordinarily fast right after birth, but slows down to a growth rate of 0.4 percent per day by the end of three months.

Overall, infants’ brains grew by 64 percent in the first 90 days, according to the study. The average brain size was 20 cubic inches (341 cubic centimeters) at birth, and 34 cubic inches (558 cubic cm) at 90 days. In other words, the brains of newborns grew from about 33 percent of the average adult brain size to 55 percent of it in three months.

The researchers noted that the brains of the infants who were born one week earlier than the average in the study (about 38 weeks), were 5 percent smaller than the average. By the end of the three months, the difference between these babies, which the researchers said were preterm, and the full-term babies became smaller, but the preterm babies hadn’t fully caught up, and their brain size was 2 percent smaller than the average, according to the study,

“The brains of premature babies actually grow faster than those of term-born babies, but that’s because they’re effectively younger — and younger means faster growth,” study researcher Dominic Holland, of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, said in a statement. The findings suggest that inducing labor early, without a medical reason, may have a negative effect on the baby’s cognitive development, Holland said.

Researchers say using MRI scans will prove to be a much more effective way to track cognitive development. Scans should lead to more exact growth charts, replacing the old method of measuring the skull with measuring tape, and help identify disorders such as autism or brain injury early.

Scientists will now investigate whether alcohol and drug consumption during pregnancy alters brain size at birth.

Babies’ brains rehearse speech mechanics months before their first words

Babies’ brains rehearse speech mechanics months before their first words

Babies’ brains rehearse speech mechanics months before their first words

Baby sounds are cute and funny, but they also represent important developmental milestones in speech, motor, social and cognitive development. A new study shows that despite the lack of comprehension indicated by all that incoherent babbling, when infants of a certain age hear speech their brains kick into gear to try to figure out the mechanics of how to talk.

The study by the University of Washington researchers and published on July 14th, 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that baby brains start laying down the groundwork of how to form words long before they actually begin to speak, and this may affect the developmental transition.

“Most babies babble by 7 months, but don’t utter their first words until after their first birthdays,” said lead author Patricia Kuhl, who is the co-director of the UW’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. “Finding activation in motor areas of the brain when infants are simply listening is significant, because it means the baby brain is engaged in trying to talk back right from the start and suggests that 7-month-olds’ brains are already trying to figure out how to make the right movements that will produce words.”

In the experiment, researchers recruited 57 babies who were 7 months old and 11 months old then put them in a scanner to measure brain activation through a noninvasive technique called magnetoencephalography. Each baby listened to a series of native and foreign language syllables such as “da” and “ta” as researchers recorded brain responses. They listened to sounds from English and Spanish.

Researchers observed brain activity in an auditory part of the brain called the superior temporal gyrus, as well as in Broca’s area and the cerebellum, cortical regions responsible for planning the motor movements required for producing speech.

This pattern of brain activation occurred for sounds in the 7-month-olds’ native language (English) as well as in a non-native language (Spanish), showing that at this early age infants are responding to all speech sounds, whether or not they have heard the sounds before.

In the older infants, brain activation was different. By 11-12 months, infants’ brains increase motor activation to the non-native speech sounds relative to native speech, which the researchers interpret as showing that it takes more effort for the baby brain to predict which movements create non-native speech.

This reflects an effect of experience between 7 and 11 months, and suggests that activation in motor brain parts is contributing to the transition in early speech perception. However, it’s been unclear how this transition occurs.

“Infants’ brains are preparing them to act on the world by practicing how to speak before they actually say a word,” said Kuhl.

These results also emphasize the importance of talking to kids during social interactions even if they aren’t talking back yet.

“‘Parentese’ is very exaggerated and when infants hear it, their brains may find it easier to model the motor movements necessary to speak,” Kuhl said.

Too much sleep might lead to faster decline in brain function

Too much sleep might lead to faster decline in brain function.

A new study conducted by researchers from Columbia and the University Hospital of Madrid has found that people in their 60s and 70s who slept in average more than 9 hours a day showed a faster cognitive decline than people who slept less (6 to 8 hours a day).

Faster cognitive decline can lead to weaker cognitive abilities such as memory, concentration or attention and over time be an important risk factor to dementia.

Obviously, it is possible that people who were sleeping more during the study had already some cognitive issues which would explain those pre-existing sleeping patterns. In any case, sleeping too much or sleeping too little is not good for your brain health and cognitive development as an adult.

To keep your brain sharp, make sure to have a normal amount of sleep of 6 to 8 hours per night and start brain training regularly!

Key gene for brain development

Key gene for brain development

About one in ten thousand babies is born with an abnormally small head. The cause for this disorder – which is known as microcephaly – is a defect in the development of the embryonic brain. Children with microcephaly are severely retarded and their life expectancy is low. Certain cases of autism and schizophrenia are also associated with the dysregulation of brain size.

The causes underlying impaired brain and cognitive development can be environmental stress (such as alcohol abuse or radiation) or viral infections (such as rubella) during pregnancy. In many cases, however, a mutant gene causes the problem.

David Keays, a group leader at the IMP, has now found a new gene which is responsible for Microcephaly. Together with his PhD-student Martin Breuss, he was able to identify TUBB5 as the culprit. The gene is responsible for making tubulins, the building blocks of the cell’s internal skeleton. Whenever a cell moves or divides, it relies on guidance from this internal structure, acting like a scaffold.

Brain gene pushed humans past apes

Brain gene pushed humans past apes.

An international team of researchers led by Scottish scientists says it has discovered a gene that helps explain how humans evolved from chimpanzees. The gene, called miR-941, appears to have played a crucial role in human brain and cognitive development and may shed light on how humans learned to use tools and language, the University of Edinburgh reported