At Harvard Medical School, researchers have conducted a study that could help explain previous evidence that babies are able to recognize certain elements of language from the moment of their birth. The study, which was published in the journal proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was lead by Dr. Amir Lahav and his colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
According to the Daily Mail, the team found that a mother’s voice might be directly linked to development of the auditory cortex – the area of the brain that processes language. During the study, researches conducted tests on forty premature infants, born between 25 and 32 weeks into pregnancy. The infants were divided into two groups: the first group listened to three hours of audio recordings of their mother’s voice and heartbeat every day for a month while the second group only heard routine background hospital noise.
Remarkably, after 30 days the brain of each baby was scanned using ultrasounds and scientists found that those infants who had listened to their mother’s voice had a significantly larger auditory cortex.
In the medical journal, Dr. Lahav and his team wrote, “We demonstrate that the auditory cortex is more adaptive to womb-like maternal sounds than to environmental noise. Results are supported by the biological fact that maternal sounds would otherwise be present in utero [the womb] had the baby not been born prematurely. The use of recorded maternal sounds in the first month of life may be especially helpful in the population of newborns whose exposure to live maternal stimulation is often limited because of infrequent parental visits.”
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They concluded, “Clearly, pre-term newborns have more working against them than can be fully compensated for by added exposure to maternal sounds. However, the present study begins to show the effect that maternal sounds could have on very early brain development. We theorize that exposure maternal sounds may provide newborns with the auditory fitness necessary to shape the brain for hearing and language development.”
As LifeNews previously reported, a study published in Infant Behavior and Development show that babies in the womb are able to recognize words and even remember nursery rhymes if the mom repeats them between weeks 28 and 34.
Another study published in the February 2014 Pediatrics suggested that the more words a preterm baby hears while in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the more they respond with sounds of their own. This means that preemies could be developing speech patterns in the NICU. The study also found that an increased amount of parent talk was linked to higher language and thinking scores when the babies were older.