Can babies encode information needed to form the foundation of memories?

Studies largely refute the long-held thinking that babies are unable to encode information needed to form the foundation of memories. One experiment, involving 2- and 3-month-olds, tested the babies' memories by attaching a ribbon to a mobile. When the babies kicked their legs, they learned the motion caused the mobile to move. They were placed under the same mobile later, without the ribbon. Even when the ribbon was gone, the infants remembered to kick their legs. The same experiment done on 6-month-olds revealed they picked up the kicking relationship much more rapidly, indicating that their encoding ability accelerated gradually, over time, instead of during one significant burst around the age of 3.

Memory encoding also could be related to an infant's development of the prefrontal cortex at the forehead. This area, active during encoding and retrieval of explicit memories, is not entirely functional at birth. By 24 months, however, the number of synapses in the prefrontal cortex has reached the level of adults.

The size of the hippocampus, at the base of the brain, also grows steadily until you are 2 or 3 years old. The hippocampus is what determines which sensory information to transfer into long-term storage.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.