CERTAIN characteristics of the human voice at normal levels have a great influence on the neonate1, and infants 1 month old can detect fine differences in speech-like sounds2,3. This enables a selective response to take place when the child meets adults. From birth, babies will turn towards the source of a sound, and this orientation to a voice helps them to learn about faces. We have also observed that infants are more interested in their mother's face when she is talking.
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"Exposure to the mother's voice begins in utero. Newborn term infants recognize their mother's voice within minutes of birth and prefer it to a non-maternal voice [38-40]. Yet, there is some evidence that preterm infants may not recognize their mother's voice while in the NICU . "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The stress that results from preterm birth, requisite acute care and prolonged physical separation in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can have adverse physiological/psychological effects on both the infant and the mother. In particular, the experience compromises the establishment and maintenance of optimal mother-infant relationship, the subsequent development of the infant, and the mother's emotional well-being. These findings highlight the importance of investigating early interventions that are designed to overcome or reduce the effects of these environmental insults and challenges.
This study is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) with blinded assessment comparing Standard Care (SC) with a novel Family Nurture Intervention (FNI). FNI targets preterm infants born 26-34 weeks postmenstrual age (PMA) and their mothers in the NICU. The intervention incorporates elements of mother-infant interventions with known efficacy and organizes them under a new theoretical context referred to collectively as calming activities. This intervention is facilitated by specially trained Nurture Specialists in three ways: 1) In the isolette through calming interactions between mother and infant via odor exchange, firm sustained touch and vocal soothing, and eye contact; 2) Outside the isolette during holding and feeding via the Calming Cycle; and 3) through family sessions designed to engage help and support the mother. In concert with infant neurobehavioral and physiological assessments from birth through 24 months corrected age (CA), maternal assessments are made using standard tools including anxiety, depression, attachment, support systems, temperament as well as physiological stress parameters. Quality of mother-infant interaction is also assessed. Our projected enrolment is 260 families (130 per group).
The FNI is designed to increase biologically important activities and behaviors that enhance maternally-mediated sensory experiences of preterm infants, as well as infant-mediated sensory experiences of the mother. Consequently, we are enlarging the testing of preterm infant neurodevelopment beyond that of previous research to include outcomes related to mother-infant interactions and mother-infant co-regulation. Our primary objective is to determine whether repeated engagement of the mother and her infant in the intervention's calming activities will improve the infant's developmental trajectory with respect to multiple outcomes. Our secondary objective is to assess the effectiveness of FNI in the physiological and psychological co-regulation of the mother and infant. We include aspects of neurodevelopment that have not been comprehensively measured in previous NICU interventions.
"Beyond mere discriminations, infants also perform person identification based on voice information. Infants as young as a few days old are more likely to suck in order to hear their mother's voice than to hear a female stranger's voice (DeCasper & Fifer, 1980; Mehler, Bertoncini, Barrière, & Jassik-Gerschenfeld, 1978; Mills & Melhuish, 1974). Some evidence suggests that this preference is in place even before birth (Kisilevsky et al., 2003). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A multimodal person representation contains information about what a person looks like and what a person sounds like. However, little is known about how children form these face-voice mappings. Here, we explored the possibility that two cognitive tools that guide word learning, a one-to-one mapping bias and fast mapping, also guide children's learning about faces and voices. We taught 4- and 5-year-olds mappings between three individual faces and voices, then presented them with new faces and voices. In Experiment 1, we found that children rapidly learned face-voice mappings from just a few exposures, and furthermore spontaneously mapped novel faces to novel voices using a one-to-one mapping bias (that each face can produce only one voice). In Experiment 2, we found that children's face-voice representations are abstract, generalizing to novel tokens of a person. In Experiment 3, we found that children retained in memory the face-voice mappings that they had generated via inference (i.e., they showed evidence of fast mapping), and used these newly formed representations to generate further mappings between new faces and voices. These findings suggest that preschoolers' rapid learning about faces and voices may be aided by biases that are similar to those that support word learning.
"Here we are on uncertain ground, for the child is certainly born with a brain, equipped with proclivities to attend preferentially to certain things (like human voices) and not others (like dog barks or engine noises). Even at birth the newborn already expresses preferences for its own mother's voice, or her native language, or a lullaby she sang while the child was still in utero (Mills & Melhuish 1974, DeCasper & Fifer 1980, Mehler et al. 1988, Hepper 1991, Spence & Freeman 1996) — implying that the fetal environment has already shaped this newborn brain. This constitutes, perhaps, a kind of knowledge. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This essay reviews some of the problems that face biolinguistics if it is to someday succeed in understanding human language from a biological and evolutionary viewpoint. Although numerous sociological problems impede progress at present, these are ultimately soluble. The greater challenges include delineating the computational mechanisms that underlie different aspects of language competence, as implemented in the brain, and under-standing the epigenetic processes by which they arise. The ultimate chal-lenge will be to develop a theory of meaning incorporating non-linguistic conceptual representations, as they exist in the mind of a dog or chimpan-zee, which requires extensions of information theory incorporating context-dependence and relevance. Each of these problems is daunting alone; to-gether they make understanding the biology of language one of the most challenging sets of problems in modern science.