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A Baby’s Brain Prepares For Speech Long Before First Words Are Heard

A Baby’s Brain Prepares For Speech Long Before First Words Are Heard. 

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Infants’ brains start laying the groundwork for the physical requirements of speech long before they utter their first words, a new study finds.

Researchers looked at 7 to 12 month-old infants and found that speech from people around them stimulates areas of the brain that coordinate and plan the motor movements necessary for speech.

“Most babies babble by seven months, but don’t utter their first words until after their first birthdays,” study author Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, in Seattle, said in a university news release.

The study included 57 infants and used a type of new brain scanning technique that is completely safe for infants, the authors noted in the news release.

“Finding activation in motor areas of the brain when infants are simply listening is significant, because it means the baby brain is engaged in trying to talk back right from the start and suggests that 7-month-olds’ brains are already trying to figure out how to make the right movements that will produce words,” she explained.

The findings show the importance of talking to infants before they start to speak.

“Hearing us talk exercises the action areas of infants’ brains, going beyond what we thought happens when we talk to them,” Kuhl said. “Infants’ brains are preparing them to act on the world by practicing how to speak before they actually say a word.”

What has revived it is the technology and measurement practices developed by Lena, which stands for Language Environment Analysis. A child wears clothing with a special pocket for a voice recorder that can unobtrusively record 16 continuous hours — plenty of time for the family to forget it’s there and converse normally.

More information:

The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about speech and language development in children.

SOURCE: University of Washington,

A Baby’s Brain Prepares For Speech Long Before First Words Are Heard.

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