Mother’s Voice Actiates Language Learning In Newborns

One of the first things a newborn hears is often the voice of their mother. Researcher may have found that this important first found could be critical to triggering the language development in newborn brains.

Mom and Baby

Researchers in Quebec used electrodes to see what the sound of a mother’s voice does to newborn infants. What they found was that the areas of the brain responsible for language were activated when a baby heard it’s mother’s voice shortly after birth.  Lead researcher Maryse Lassonde of the University of Montreal’s department of psychology and Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Centre, said this was a great breakthrough to understanding why an infant reacts to it’s mother’s voice so strongly after birth.

Sixteen full-term newborns were used in the research. Twenty-four hours after birth, the newborns were taken into a lab and hooked to small nets on their heads. The nets contained sponges that contained the electrodes used to monitor brain activity. The infants were then played a recording of their mothers making the short “A” vowel sound. The infants were all held in their mothers’ arms during the test, with their temperatures and heart rates being monitored.

The sound of their mothers’ voices activated the language comprehension areas of the brain. When the infants heard the voice of a nurse instead, only the voice recognition system found in the brain’s right hemisphere was activated. Even more importantly, after hearing their mothers’ voices the infants also had stimulation in the motor speech area. Hearing their mothers seemed to be helping them learn to talk.

“What it means is we saw a circuitry from the language to the expression of language right at birth, and this is elicited by the mother,” she said in an interview Thursday. “It’s as if the mother was the instigator of the development of the language in the baby’s brain.”

Lassonde believes this is because the mother’s voice is on the infant hears the most during pregnancy. This may be triggering prenatal language development as well Infants may be learning how to communicate from listening to their mothers as they develop.

It is unclear whether premature babies have the same reaction to the sound of their mothers’ voices. Further research into this may look at how babies who are born prematurely react as well. – Summer, staff writer

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Summer is a mom of three, living life in the slow lane along historic Route 66. She writes, homeschools, gardens, and is still trying to learn how to knit.

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