Words affect the cognitive development of young children in school


  • External stimuli, such as sound, can affect the rapid process of cognitive development that occurs before puberty.
  • Noise exposure in school during the day is more harmful than at home because it affects the concentration and weak windows of the learning process.

Choosing the right school for your child will feel like an element to consider considering the level of street noise around the institution! Indeed, its real impact on children’s health is still not well understood, but a new study published in PLOS Medicine in 38 schools in Barcelona allows us to measure the problem.

The experiment involved 2,680 children between the ages of 7 and 10, and fieldwork was conducted for 12 months of research in 2012 and 2013, during which participants performed cognitive experiments in four programs. At the same time, noise was measured in front of 38 participating schools, as well as inside playgrounds and classrooms.

Slow cognitive development

According to the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), children who go to school with noisy traffic have slower cognitive development. For example, a 5 dB increase in external noise levels results in 11.4% slower development of work memory than average and 23.5% slower development of complex working memory than average. Similarly, exposure to additional 5 dB outdoor traffic noise has resulted in a 4.8% slower than average development of attention.

Skills needed for learning and academic success

Attention and work memory are two skills that develop rapidly in pre-adolescence and are essential for learning and academic success. Attention includes processes, such as selective attention to a specific stimulus or focus on a specific task for an extended period of time. Working memory is a system that allows us to hold information in our minds and manage it for a short period of time. When the information stored in our working memory needs to be processed continuously and efficiently, we use what is known as complex working memory.

Poor performance

In school outdoor noise analysis, both a high average noise level (consistent with 80 dB of heavy vehicles on a road) and a large fluctuation in noise levels (where one goes from low noise to loud noise) were associated with poverty. Student performance in all exams.

Within the classroom, greater fluctuations in sound levels were also associated with the slow progress of the year in all cognitive tests. However, children who have been exposed to high average noise levels in the classroom over the years (a noisy classroom is 70 dB) only performed worse than students in secluded classrooms in the db test. Be careful, but not to test the working memory.

“This result suggests that noise peaks in the classroom may cause more disruption to neurodevelopment than the average decibel level.”Comment by Maria Forster, researcher at ISGlobal and lead author of the study. “This is important because it supports the hypothesis that noise characteristics may be more influential than average noise levels, although current policies are based on average decibels only.”

Impact of transport

This study adds to the main body of evidence regarding the effects of transportation on children’s cognitive development, which has been observed in schools that are still exposed to aircraft noise, as well as schools that are exposed to air pollution related to traffic. “The health of the population, especially the most at-risk groups such as children, should be the basis of town planning.”We can read in a press release from Inserm.

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