A University of Cincinnati study suggests the number of sites in children’s brains involved in language recognition decreases as children age.

And that finding, says neurology Professor Dr. Jerzy Szaflarski suggests as a child grows more language proficient, recalling words may involve less effort.

The study’s results also support explanations as to why young children who injure a large part of one side of their brain often recover completely, or nearly completely.

The decrease in activity sites may mean that language areas in the brain are more flexible when children are younger and become more specialized as they mature, said Szaflarski. This raises hope for rehabilitation of brain function in children after stroke or traumatic brain injuries.

Szaflarski and senior co-author Scott Holland, a pediatrics professor, studied 30 children for five years, monitoring their responses using functional magnetic resonance imaging.

They concluded that more brain areas are involved during a language exercise in a 5-year-old than in an 11-year-old.

The research was presented Thursday in San Diego during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology and also appears in the journal Annals of Neurology.