Voice and language processing in the infant brain

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30 June 2014

Presenter(s): Dr Evelyne Mercure
Time: 13.00 - 14.00
Location: NHBRU, Meeting Room 1


The human voice is the most socially important stimulus in our auditory environment and areas of the adult brain are specialised for processing language and non-speech vocalisations. Are we born with these patterns of functional specialisation or do they develop with years of experience of listening to human voices? New advances in neuroimaging methods now allow studying the early stages of this brain development. I will present the results of a study using near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate brain activation to non-speech vocalisations in 4 to 7 month old infants. I will also present data linking these infants’ brain activation to human voices at 4 to 7 months with their language development at 14 months. Finally I will present the design of an on-going study investigating how early language experience shapes brain representation for language in babies. This study compares 3 groups of 4 to 7 month old infants with different language experience: 30 infants from a monolingual environment, 30 infants from a bilingual environment in which 2 spoken languages are frequently used and 30 infants with a Deaf mother who are growing up in a bilingual environment where British Sign Language (BSL) and English are frequently used.