Can tablets be used to measure cognitive development anywhere?

    • Topic: Cognitive Development

    • Location: Hall of Human Life

    Children’s cognitive skills develop as they grown and learn. For example, a child’s memory, the ability to store information, takes time to develop. Infants are not able to remember things over a long period of time. In this study we are evaluating a test that can be used to track and measure how several foundational cognitive skills develop in any culture around the world. Our test uses a tablet computer and is called the Sheridan Memory, Inhibition, and Learning Evaluation (SMILE).

    Participants, 4 to 50 years old, will be asked to play one or more games, each measuring a specific cognitive function. The games are about long term memory (remembering things for more than a few minutes, even days, weeks, or years), working memory (remembering and thinking about information for a few seconds), inhibitory control (controlling your initial response), implicit learning (responding to patterns without realizing it), or spatial orienting (mentally organizing objects in space – like separating left from right).

    Our goal is for SMILE to be used around the world to collect information about how children develop the foundational skills needed for learning later in life. We also want to use SMILE to learn more about the areas of the brain that are related to these skills.

    This research is conducted at Museum of Science, Boston by Margaret Sheridan from the Boston Children’s Hospital’s Labs in Cognitive Neuroscience.

        » Boston Children’s Hospital’s Labs in Cognitive Neuroscience

    Activities to Try in the Hall of Human Life

    What Was That?

    Find the link station “Are you paying attention?” in the Time environment. This activity measures another cognitive function called “attentional control.” Attentional control is the ability to choose what you pay attention to and what you ignore. Try out this activity to see how well you control your attention. Make sure that you listen to all of the instructions. Now, try to imagine playing the game without having heard the instructions. Would you have known to look for the most dots if you had not been told? What if the instructions had been in a different language? SMILE is meant to work for any person, no matter what language s/he speaks. Do you think this activity measures attentional control equally well for people who speak English as those who do not?

    Activities to Try at Home

    Putting Your Memory to Work

    For this activity you will need to remember some numbers. Have a friend pick 3 numbers and write them down. Look at the numbers for a few seconds. Now turn the piece of paper over and try to remember the numbers while your friend quietly counts to 10. By only looking at the numbers for a few seconds you are putting them into your working memory. Try again with five numbers. More numbers are harder to remember.

    To really test your working memory, try to remember these nine numbers: 7, 1, 2, 0, 5, 7, 3, 0, 2, 6. ?

    Working memory is about more than just memorization; it is also about organization. Single digits can be grouped into larger numbers to make this easier. Each new number is then just one “thing” to remember. Try remembering 71, 20, 57, 30, and 26 instead. Was this easier? These numbers came from our main telephone number: (617) 723-2500. Are the numbers any easier to remember when they are organized this way?

Research Spotlight

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livinglaboratory@mos.org