Scientists from Brown University (USA) conducted a study on whether children have any advantages when learning something new. As experts have found out, children learn many times faster than adults due to the work of the nervous system.

What exactly affects the learning process?

Scientists have found that during learning in the children’s brain there is a rapid release of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) – an organic compound that acts as the most important neurotransmitter of the central nervous system, which fixes the newly learned material.

In a task involving 14 adults aged 18-35 years and 13 children, GABA levels in children were found to increase during exercise and remained high thereafter, while in adults levels remained the same throughout the exercise. According to the researchers, the neurotransmitter helped children memorize new information faster and more efficiently so that they could return to it later.

What is the function of GABA in the body?

The main function of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is to reduce the neural activity of the neurons to which it attaches. Its presence in the brain first became known in 1950, when the American scientist Eugene Roberts proved that this is the main amino acid that ensures the best functioning of nerve cells in the brain. The scientist drew attention to the presence of this substance in various tissues of the central nervous system: the brain, cerebellum and spinal cord of vertebrates and suggested a direct or indirect connection with the conduction of nerve signals. A low level of GABA leads to the development of anxiety, depression, impairs concentration, attention, and some cognitive functions.

Main functions of GABA:

  • motor activity regulation
  • ensuring the processes of memory and thinking
  • anticonvulsant action
  • blood supply to the brain
  • activation of energy processes
  • increased respiratory activity
  • acceleration of glucose utilization
  • removal of toxic metabolic products.

What task did the participants complete during the study?

Adults and children were asked to look at the center point of the screen, on which two images appeared consecutively for 50 milliseconds, followed by an interval of 300 milliseconds. One of the images had a monochrome illusion with visual noise, the other had only visual noise. The participants of the experiment had to answer where the drawing was depicted, which looks like a series of black and white stripes, the so-called “Gabor filter”.