As a leader in Innovative Baby Products, MyRaZbaby is passionate about the health, safety, and wellness of babies. That's why we're always excited to find and share the latest research that teaches us more about this vital stage of human life.
NPR recently reported on a new study that explores one of the most vital developments in early childhood: how we first develop speech. As it turns out, infants begin practicing how to talk in their minds months before they verbally utter their first words.
Using what looks like a hair dryer from Mars, researchers from the University of Washington have taken the most precise peeks yet into the fireworks display of neural activity that occurs when infants listen to people speak.
They found that the motor area of the brain, which we use to produce speech, is very active in babies 7 to 12 months old when they listen to speech components.
"What we're seeing is that the babies are practicing because they want to talk back," says Patricia Kuhl, a speech psychologist at the University of Washington and the lead author on the paper, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.
Kuhl used a machine called a magnetoencephalograph, or MEG, that measures the brain's magnetic field from outside the head. Unlike MRIs or CTs, which require that patients be completely still, the MEG can scan images in moving patients, which works out perfectly for fidgety babies.
The researchers found that the motor part of the baby’s brain lit up when the baby listened to the sounds, indicating that they were trying to mimic or respond to the speech. Essentially, between seven months to a year, babies undergo a major transition in which they can begin to distinguish sounds from different languages; by age one, they can actually pinpoint the native language of their parents and tune out foreign speech.
The study’s conclusion was that "baby-talk" – the way parents typically speak to babies, as characterized by a higher pitch and slower pace – actually benefits them by helping to develop this vital but unsent social development. Other scientists suggest that this reinforces the importance of surrounding one’s infant with language in general, though not necessarily needing to speak “baby”.
While future plans call for research to further confirm this, the take-home advice is clear: communicate and engage with your baby as much as possible.
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