Experts at the University of Rochester had 27 children and 20 adults watch Sesame Street while undergoing a functional MRI scan.
They found children whose brain activity resembled that of adults scored better on math and verbal tests.
Researchers established a map of the brain as it grows and develops, which gives them an option other than written tests for assessing IQ.
Experts say the study is not advocating television for young children, but it does prove something is happening when they are watching educational programs, and kids have not completely zoned out.
The study allowed researchers to identify areas of the brain directly linked to language and math.