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Imaging study sheds light on neural origins of baby talk

 

Neural processing in the brains of parents talking to their babies may reveal secrets about early stages of language acquisition in infants. This according to findings by researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute and their collaborators, which show for the first time that experience, gender and personality affect how parents process the speech they use when addressing infants. Infant-directed speech (IDS), also known as “baby talk”, is a style of speech used by adults to address infants, characterized by high-pitched, articulated intonation and a simplified lexicon. While ubiquitous across languages and cultures, the neural mechanisms underlying IDS are unknown. To elucidate these mechanisms, the researchers applied functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to the brains of 35 first-time parents with preverbal infants and 30 men and women without any parenting experience. Subjects also included 16 mothers with toddlers who spoke two-word utterances and 18 mothers with children in elementary school.

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