Sign Language May Boost Cognition in Children by 50 Percent

Gestures and speech used similar neural circuits as they developed in our evolutionary history. University of Chicago psycholinguist David McNeill was the first to suggest this. He thought nonverbal and verbal skills might retain their strong ties even though they’ve diverged into separate behavioral spheres. He was right. Studies confirmed it with a puzzling finding: People who could no longer move their limbs after a brain injury also increasingly lost their ability to communicate verbally. Studies of babies showed the same direct association. We now know that infants do not gain a more sophisticated vocabulary until their fine-motor finger control improves. That’s a remarkable finding. Gestures are “windows into thought processes,” McNeill says. Could learning physical gestures improve other cognitive skills? One study hints that it could, though more work needs to be done. Kids with normal hearing took an American Sign Language class for nine months, in the first grade, then were administered a series of cognitive tests. Their attentional focus, spatial abilities, memory, and visual discrimination scores improved dramatically—by as much as 50 percent—compared with controls who had no formal instruction.


Children who learned the form of communication in the first grade performed 50 percent better on a series of cognitive tests.

Folksonomies: parenting child development

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 Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Medina , John (2010-10-12), Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five, Pear Press, Retrieved on 2011-07-27
Folksonomies: parenting pregnancy babies child development