Mom’s Voice Plays Special Role in Activating Newborn’s Brain

December 24th, 2010 by

Mums spend 9 months talking to their tummies and that little being inside.  From singing songs to asking ‘why must you stretch your feet out right there’; the baby is listening and also getting used to the sounds you make while still in your tummy.  As it turns out knowing your voice does more than just mommy recognition.   A new study found out that a mother’s voice is not only recognized by a newborn, but it actually stimulates important parts of their brain.

Researchers from the University of Montreal and Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Center applied electrodes to babies’ heads creating electrical recordings within the first 24 hours of life.  The study found that the mother’s voice preferentially activates the part of the brain responsible for language learning.

The recorded brain signals found that the babies’ brains did respond to the sounds of other women’s voices, however, those voices only stimulated the voice recognition parts of the brain.  Study authors explain that this is the first time research has been able to prove scientifically that a mother’s voice is important to her baby.  In addition, brain research has never been performed on such young participants.

So just how did they make this discovery? Electrodes were placed on the heads of 16 sleeping babies and their mothers were asked to make a short ‘A’ vowel sound. The female nurses who brought the babies to the lab were then asked to repeat the same sound.  When the stranger spoke, only the right hemisphere of the brain was activated, which is associated with voice recognition.  Yet when the mums spoke, the scans displayed reaction in the left hemisphere of the brain and particularly the language processing and motor skill circuit.

That special, sweet voice mothers use to talk to their babies, affectionately dubbed “Motherese” is actually scientifically recognized and is amazingly an innate reaction in most women.  Science has known that babies possess innate language capacities, but have only begun to scratch the surface of what these capacities are and how they work.  For example, when babies hear the “A” sound, they begin to make the mouth shapes needed for this sound regardless of whether or not they have heard or seen it spoken.  The study confirms that mothers are the primary initiators of language and that there is a neurobiological link to prenatal language acquisition.  So practice that Motherese, sing some holiday songs, or just say “Allo” to the baby in your tummy or now in your arms because they are working on how to say “Allo” back to you.

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