Human Brain Becomes Tuned to Voices and Emotional Tone of Voice During Infancy
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Date posted: 25/03/2010
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The Brain

New research finds that the brains of infants as young as 7 months old demonstrate a sensitivity to the human voice and to emotions communicated through the voice that is remarkably similar to what is observed in the brains of adults.

The study, published by Cell Press in the March 25 issue of the journal Neuron, probes the origins of voice processing in the human brain and may provide important insight into neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.

Dr. Tobias Grossmann from the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development at the University of London led the study which was performed in Dr. Angela D. Friederici's laboratory at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany. The researchers used near-infrared spectroscopy to investigate when during development regions in temporal cortex become specifically sensitive to the human voice. These specific cortical regions have been shown to play a key role in processing spoken language in adults. Grossmann and colleagues observed that 7-month-olds but not 4-month-olds showed adult-like increased responses in the temporal cortex in response to the human voice when compared to nonvocal sounds, suggesting that voice sensitivity emerges between 4 and 7 months of age.

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