Title: Plasticity and learning: How education shapes brain development
Abstract: Educational interventions offer a powerful tool to understand how changing a child’s environment shapes the development of specialized brain circuits for new cognitive functions such as literacy. I will first present a series of intervention studies that reveal a surprising capacity for rapid and widespread plasticity in the brain’s white matter connections. Next, I will ask whether there is a sensitive period for experience-dependent white matter plasticity and literacy learning. Finally, I will conclude by describing new work in pre-school children examining how learning to associate letters with sounds establishes the foundations of the brain’s reading circuitry.