This is how a mother's voice affects the development of a baby's brain
A new study has found that a mother's voice plays a vital part in forming connections in the brain
It’s been long established that babies can hear their mother’s voice from inside the womb, and that after birth, newborns are able to recognise their mother’s voice.
Now, thanks to a study from the Stanford University School of Medicine, we also know that children’s brains are far more responsive to their mother’s voice compared to other people’s voices. Researchers found that the regions that respond strongly to the mother’s voice aren’t limited to the auditory areas; they also include those involved in emotion and social functions, Aeon reports.
“We didn’t realize that a mother’s voice would have such quick access to so many different brain systems”
“The extent of the regions that were engaged was really quite surprising,” senior author Vinod Menon said in a news release.
The study found that the stronger the connections between the brain regions activated by the mother’s voice, the better the child’s communication skills usually are in the future.
“Many of our social, language, and emotional processes are learned by listening to our mum’s voice,” said lead author Daniel Abrams. “But surprisingly little is known about how the brain organizes itself around this very important sound source. We didn’t realise that a mother’s voice would have such quick access to so many different brain systems.”
“We know that hearing mother’s voice can be an important source of emotional comfort to children,” Abrams said. “Here, we’re showing the biological circuitry underlying that.”
A mother’s voice is more powerful than we had thought
Previous studies had found that babies actively listen to their mum’s voice during the third trimester, according to BabyCenter. Also, children are soothed by their mother’s voice in stressful situations—her voice reduces the stress hormone cortisol while increasing the social bonding hormone oxytocin.
This new study establishes that a mother’s voice plays a vital part in the formation of brain connections. This is one more reason why expectant mothers are encouraged to talk and sing to their babies in the womb, and continue actively communicating with their children as they get older.
“Voice is one of the most important social communication cues,” Menon said. “It’s exciting to see that the echo of one’s mother’s voice lives on in so many brain systems.”
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