The incredible abilities of babies' brains

by Mollee Bauer

baby brain abilitiesBabies might be small. They might be noisy or colicky. They might keep you elbows deep in diapers. They can't even hold an adult conversations yet.

Despite all that, our babies are a lot more clever than we think. Their amazing skills are continually under study.

In fact, as researchers and scientists discover new ways to measure and quantify our babies' real skills, they're finding that babies' brain abilities are a lot more incredible than we previously thought.

Your baby's amazing brain abilities

Babies know who's in charge

According to results published in the January 2011 journal Science, babies comprehend social hierarchies and that size determines who's in charge. As early as 10 months, babies can figure out that "bigger" means in charge.

Babies understand emotions and moods

Your baby is a mini empath. She can sense when your happy, sad and everything in-between. As young as 5 months, babies can discern between a upbeat versus gloomy tune according to a study published in 2010 in the journal Neuron.

Babies can grasp dogs' emotions

Your baby, before he says "mama" or she says "dada," can actually decipher the emotions of dogs. That's right, dogs. A study published in the journal Developmental Psychology in 2009 demonstrated that 6-month-olds could match the sounds of an angry snarl or friendly yap with photos of dogs showing the matching body language.

Babies are natural dancers

Another study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2010 says that babies have an innate ability to dance, even though researchers aren't sure why or how it evolved. The researchers played recordings of classical music, rhythmic beats and speech to infants while videotaping the results. The babies moved their arms, hands, legs, feet, torsos and heads in time to the music, much more than to speech.

Babies can learn in their sleep

In the same 2010 study researchers also discovered that babies can learn while they're sleeping. In experiments with 26 sleeping infants (each just 1 to 2 days old), scientists played a musical tone followed by a puff of air to their eyes 200 times over the course of a half-hour. The babies also had a network of 124 electrodes stuck on their scalps and faces to record brain activity. The babies quickly anticipated the puff of air when hearing the tone and showed a fourfold increase in the chances they tightened their eyelids in response to the sound. Since newborns spend the majority of their time asleep, this newfound ability could be crucial for newborns to quickly adapt to the world around them and ensure their survival.

Babies understand grammar

Before baby "talks," there is actual "baby talk" and other language skills being developed. In a 2007 study published in the journal Science, researchers had 36 infants watch silent videos of three bilingual French-English speakers reciting sentences. The 4 to 6-month-old babies demonstrated that they could tell the difference between the speakers.

Babies can size people up

The critical ability to rapidly judge if a person is helpful or harmful starts early on. Kiley Hamlin of Yale University published a study in the journal Nature in 2007. He showed 6- and 10-month-olds a puppet show in which one shape helped another climb a hill. In another scenario a third shape pushed the climber down. The babies were allowed to choose which shape they preferred. For both age groups, most babies chose the helper shapes. Hamlin suspected that this character-judging ability could be baby’s first step in the formation of morals.

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