The biological basis for language recognition is established even in the brains of very young babies, new research suggests. Infants from three to seven months old have a great degree of sensitivity to the sounds of human voice including its emotional variations. According to a blog post in ScienceDaily:
“Our results suggest that the infant temporal cortex is more mature than previously reported,” said Evelyne Mercure of University College London. “It is a rare demonstration that specialized areas exist in the brain very early in development.”
“It is probably because the human voice is such an important social cue that the brain shows an early specialization for its processing,” added Anna Blasi of King’s College London. “This may represent the very first step in social interactions and language learning.”
The findings are consistent with earlier evidence that infants can extract subtle information from human speech. Newborns prefer to listen to their mother’s voice and their mother tongue. Young infants also differentiate between the voices of men and women, children and adults.
Researchers are currently conducting studies to learn how differences in brain development related to language learning arise. With such knowledge, they hope to eventually predict and control disorders such as autism which hinder language learning.