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How to boost babies' brain power

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CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows how parents can help their babies be bright, confident and happy. (November 14)
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(CNN) -- More than 360,000 babies are born every day on the planet. Which one of them will grow up to be a future Shakespeare, find a cure for cancer or perhaps even prove Einstein wrong?

For a smarter baby, experts say it's not all in the books -- emotional development plays a big role in raising intelligent kids.

"We really need to change that historic dichotomy of cognition on the one hand, emotions on the other hand, and realize that our emotions are the fuel that gives rise to social behavior but also to different levels of intelligence," says Dr. Stanley Greenspan, a child development researcher at the George Washington University medical school.

Genetics also plays a role, but Greenspan says a baby's future is not written in his DNA.

"Regardless of the history of IQ tests in the family, if I see nurturing, warm, interactive people who read emotional signals well and interact well, usually I see happy, competent and bright children," Greenspan says.

Besides parent-child interaction, there are other ways to increase baby brain power that have been in the spotlight recently:

• Breast-feeding is good for a baby -- and most experts say they believe it's also good for a baby's developing brain. Those who had been breast-fed for seven to nine months scored higher on IQ tests than those breast-fed for one month or less, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in May.

• Listening to music was once thought to enhance math skills. A 1999 Harvard medical school analysis of more than a dozen studies doesn't support this claim, but music and dancing can be excellent ways to interact.

• Other research shows infants can learn basic sign language even before they speak. These infants appear to grow up a little smarter, but some experts say they think the benefit is due to increased parent-child interaction.

• Baby reading lessons are growing in popularity. The makers of video, books and flash cards aimed at the very young claim to sometimes have 2-year-olds reading simple children's books by themselves. Some experts support these programs, while others oppose them.

"If you do a little bit of looking at books with your children and inspire them to be curious about the pictures and ... what the word means, but don't get into very structured systematic teaching at too early an age," Greenspan says, "and you also interact emotionally and have fun with pretend play ... then you have the best of both worlds."

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