The University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) today announced the early completion of an $8 million, three-year challenge grant from the Bezos Family Foundation to advance the institute's groundbreaking research on how infants and young children learn and develop. The funding, earmarked for I-LAB's Developing Mind Project, will advance important insights including when the brain is most receptive to learning, how different regions of the brain interact to build critical capacities, and what these findings mean for the education of children.
The challenge was met ahead of deadline thanks to the generous support of foundations, corporations and individual donors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, United Way of King County, the Boeing Corporation and members of the I-LABS advisory board. As I-LABS raised the first $3 million, the Bezos Family Foundation agreed to match those gifts dollar for dollar, and then contribute an additional $2 million for a total $5 million to the institute.
"We are thrilled to see our community come together to support the research that I-LABS has pioneered in early brain development," says Jackie Bezos, president of the Bezos Family Foundation.
I-LABS' world-class research team has developed the first-ever brain measures that examine the effects of early learning on the infant brain. Dr. Patricia Kuhl, I-LABS co-director and Bezos Family Foundation Chair in Early Childhood Learning, has bold plans for the research this new funding makes possible.
"We can now generate "movies" of a baby's brain in action, showing how talking and interacting socially with children actually shapes brain architecture," says Dr. Kuhl. "By mapping brain development over time, we are advancing our understanding of how the context of relationships influences whether a child has a strong or weak foundation – and what we can do to improve educational and life outcomes."
Dr. Andrew Meltzoff, I-LABS co-director and Job and Gertrud Tamaki Chair, underscores the urgency of this research, citing that children learn more in the first five years than in any other five-year period of their lives.
"The early years are critical in human development, and our research agenda aims to help children overcome the 'preparation gap' by accelerating the translation of discovery to practice," says Meltzoff.
By enabling new scientific discoveries in early learning and brain development and crafting actionable recommendations to a broad base of stakeholders, I-LABS accelerates the cycle from discovery to practice . I-LABS' activities will enhance the growing national awareness of the value of early-learning and of the impact that early investments can have on school readiness and lifelong success.
Learn more about I-LABS at ilabs.washington.edu and follow the Developing Mind Project on Twitter @uw_ilabs. Learn more about the Bezos Family Foundation at bezosfamilyfoundation.org.