The stimulation of language through the maternal voice in the prenatal stages produces changes in neuronal activity useful for the development of linguistic skills
Children learn language very quickly, much faster than adults. They only need a few months to begin to understand basic words and by one year they are already starting to articulate words on their own. Scientists have hypothesized that theLanguage acquisition begins before birth because at six or seven months of gestation the fetus can already hear hey Newborns seem to prefer their mother’s voice over other female voices. Research published in the journal Science Advances investigated this topic and suggests that language stimulation in the prenatal stages through the mother’s voice produces changes in the child’s neural activity that contribute to newborns’ language learning: from before birth, the child’s brain begins to shape itself.
How the brain of newborns changes
In the final stages of pregnancy, the fetus can hear sounds coming from outsidebut the ffrequencies are attenuated by the uterus which acts as a filter: the highest sounds are suppressed and only the melody and rhythm of the word reach the fetus. And it looks like little ones prefer their mother’s voice and that their brains become in tune with the language spoken by their mother. A team of researchers from the Neuroscience Center of the University of Padua wanted to investigate precisely this aspect and observed specific changes in the brain area of newborns when they were exposed to the language spoken by their mother, suggesting that their brains are already attuned to the language their mother speaks. These findings provide more compelling evidence that language experience shapes the functional organization of the infant brain, even before birth, the researchers write.
The learning mechanism
It was not yet clear how much children learned from the prenatal experience, admits the study’s lead author, Judit Gervain. Previous studies have shown that this prenatal experience filtered by maternal tissues effectively shapes children’s ability to perceive speech and brain mechanisms related to language. The novelty of our study is that we show thelearning as it develops. We discovered that theThe activity of the newborn’s brain changes in real timeeven several minutes after listening to the speech in the native language, that is, the language heard before birth.
The researchers analyzed, throughencephalographyL’neuronal activity of 33 newborns of French-speaking mothers. They placed caps with a dozen electrodes located near areas of the brain associated with auditory and speech perception and monitored their activity. We first measured resting-state activity for three minutes. The children then listened to the speech in three different languages: French, Spanish and English in seven-minute blocks. Finally, resting-state activity was measured again for three minutes, the authors explain. The speech stimuli were recordings with sentences, with the typical cadence used with children, translated into the three languages of the story Goldilocks and The Three Bears.
The researchers noticed something different when the French audio was played last. They were observed long-range temporal correlations, which are brain waves related to how we perceive and process speech. It suggests, according to the authors, that immediately after birth we are already able to recognize and absorb the language we heard in the womb and this sign of learning. Prenatal language experience can therefore begin to shape the brain and contribute to learning. The results show that for French, the language heard before birth, but not for two unknown languages, brain activity shows more “memory”. It shows us the learning of the language heard before birth adds Gervain. Furthermore, the team found that these brain oscillations, activated by French, had a particular frequency associated with the natural rhythms of speech. We’re ready to start learning to speak, it seems, even when we’re only a few days old and aLearning appears to begin before birth.
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November 30, 2023 (modified November 30, 2023 | 07:27)
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