Mom’s voice activates newborn’s language learning

December 20th, 2010 - 2:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Dec 20 (IANS) A mother’s voice activates parts of her baby’s brain responsible for language learning.

Researchers at the University of Montreal made the discovery after performing electrical recordings on the infants within 24 hours of their birth.

The brain signals also revealed that while the infants did react to other women’s voices, only the mother’s sounds activated the voice recognition parts of the brains, according to a University of Montreal statement.

“This is exciting research that proves for the first time that the newborn’s brain responds strongly to the mother’s voice…that the mother’s voice is special to babies,” said psychologist Maryse Lassonde at Montreal.

Brain exploration had never before been undertaken on such young participants. “We applied electrodes to the heads (of a group of babies) while they were sleeping,” Lassonde explained.

“And we asked the mother to make the short ‘A’ vowel sound — like in the French word ‘allĂ´’. We then repeated the exercise with the female nurse who brought the baby to the lab.

“When the mother spoke, the scans very clearly show reactions in the left-hemisphere of the brain, and in particular the language processing and motor skills circuit.

“Conversely, when the stranger spoke, the right-hemisphere of the brain reacted. The right-hemisphere is associated with voice recognition,” added Lassonde

“Motherese” — the special voice mother’s use to communicate with their babies — is scientifically recognised.

The researchers took this into account by involving a nurse who is herself a mother, and they also countered the “novelty” aspect by arranging for the mother to meet with the nurse at regular intervals before the birth.

Finally, speech analysis was used to ensure that the mother’s voice and the voices of the other woman were sufficiently comparable.

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