When Brains Learn to Walk
Have you ever watched a baby learning to walk? If not, you’ve missed something amazing. If you have, perhaps you’ve seen a baby taking steps, then looking up and recognizing Mommy or Daddy, and promptly plopping down, almost as if they can’t do both things at the same time. What is going on in babies’ brains when they are learning to walk?
In some fascinating research, scientists at Washington University in St. Louis scanned the brains of babies as they learned to walk. In the initial stages, the connection between the default-mode network (the brain networks we use while we’re daydreaming or letting our minds wander) works with the motor cortex. Later, the brain shifts from the default-mode network to the parts of the brain responsible for attention and task control.
The research makes us wonder whether other physical skills are learned the same way. It also appears that these unexpected findings may help with earlier diagnosis of autism, where atypical brain network develop may show up when babies are just beginning to walk.