Navigation Links
Babies process language in a grown-up way
Date:1/7/2011

Babies, even those too young to talk, can understand many of the words that adults are saying and their brains process them in a grown-up way.

Combining the cutting-edge technologies of MRI and MEG, scientists at the University of California, San Diego show that babies just over a year old process words they hear with the same brain structures as adults, and in the same amount of time. Moreover, the researchers found that babies were not merely processing the words as sounds, but were capable of grasping their meaning.

This study was jointly led by Eric Halgren, PhD, professor of radiology in the School of Medicine, Jeff Elman, PhD, professor of cognitive science in the Division of Social Sciences, and first author, Katherine E. Travis, of the Department of Neurosciences and the Multimodal Imaging Laboratory, all at UC San Diego. The work is published this week in the Oxford University Press journal Cerebral Cortex.

"Babies are using the same brain mechanisms as adults to access the meaning of words from what is thought to be a mental 'database' of meanings, a database which is continually being updated right into adulthood," said Travis.

Previously, many people thought infants might use an entirely different mechanism for learning words, and that learning began primitively and evolved into the process used by adults. Determining the areas of the brain responsible for learning language, however, has been hampered by a lack of evidence showing where language is processed in the developing brain.

While lesions in two areas called Broca's and Wernicke's (frontotemporal) areas have long been known to be associated with loss of language skills in adults, such lesions in early childhood have little impact on language development. To explain this discordance, some have proposed that the right hemisphere and inferior frontal regions are initially critical for language, and that classical language areas of adulthood become dominant only with increasing linguistic experience. Alternatively, other theories have suggested that the plasticity of an infant's brain allows other regions to take over language-learning tasks if left frontotemporal regions are damaged at an early age.

In addition to studying effects of brain deficits, language systems can be determined by identifying activation of different cortical areas in response to stimuli. In order to determine if infants use the same functional networks as adults to process word meaning, the researchers used MEG an imaging process that measures tiny magnetic fields emitted by neurons in the brain and MRI to noninvasively estimate brain activity in 12 to 18-month old infants.

In the first experiment, the infants listened to words accompanied by sounds with similar acoustic properties, but no meaning, in order to determine if they were capable of distinguishing between the two. In the second phase, the researchers tested whether the babies were capable of understanding the meaning of these words. For this experiment, babies saw pictures of familiar objects and then heard words that were either matched or mismatched to the name of the object: a picture of a ball followed by the spoken word ball, versus a picture of a ball followed by the spoken word dog.

Brain activity indicated that the infants were capable of detecting the mismatch between a word and a picture, as shown by the amplitude of brain activity. The "mismatched," or incongruous, words evoked a characteristic brain response located in the same left frontotemporal areas known to process word meaning in the adult brain. The tests were repeated in adults to confirm that the same incongruous picture/word combinations presented to babies would evoke larger responses in left frontotemporal areas.

"Our study shows that the neural machinery used by adults to understand words is already functional when words are first being learned," said Halgren, "This basic process seems to embody the process whereby words are understood, as well as the context for learning new words." The researchers say their results have implications for future studies, for example development of diagnostic tests based on brain imaging which could indicate whether a baby has healthy word understanding even before speaking, enabling early screening for language disabilities or autism.


'/>"/>

Contact: Debra Kain
ddkain@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

Related medicine news :

1. Prevention Is Key Research Goal for Premature Babies, Scientists Say
2. Two Babies Born a Year Apart After Ovary Transplant
3. Naptime Helps Babies Remember New Things
4. Pioneering treatment reduces disability in premature babies with serious brain hemorrhage
5. 1 in 5 At-Risk U.S. Babies Doesnt Get Hepatitis B Vaccine
6. New, National Amnesty International Report Finds Appalling U.S. Death Rate for Women Having Babies, Systemic Failures and Shocking Disparities in Maternal Health Care System; Louisiana is 46th Among All States in Maternal Mortality
7. New, National Amnesty International Report Finds Appalling U.S. Death Rate for Women Having Babies, Systemic Failures and Shocking Disparities in Maternal Health Care System; Georgia is 50th Among All States in Maternal Mortality
8. New, National Amnesty International Report Finds Appalling U.S. Death Rate for Women Having Babies, Systemic Failures and Shocking Disparities in Maternal Health Care System; Maryland is 48th Among All States in Maternal Mortality
9. New, National Amnesty International Report Finds Appalling U.S. Death Rate for Women Having Babies, Systemic Failures and Shocking Disparities in Maternal Health Care System; District of Columbia is 51st Among All States in Maternal Mortality
10. New, National Amnesty International Report Finds Appalling U.S. Death Rate for Women Having Babies, Systemic Failures and Shocking Disparities in Maternal Health Care System; Arkansas is 44th Among All States in Maternal Mortality
11. New, National Amnesty International Report Finds Appalling U.S. Death Rate for Women Having Babies, Systemic Failures and Shocking Disparities in Maternal Health Care System; Delaware is 42nd Among All States in Maternal Mortality
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Babies process language in a grown-up way
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Pixel Film Studios Released ProSlice Levels, a Media Slicing Effect ... videos a whole new perspective by using the title layers in ProSlice Levels ... , ProSlice Levels contains over 30 Different presets to choose from. FCPX ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... ... Austin residents seeking Mohs surgery services, can now turn to Dr. Jessica ... Peckham for medical and surgical dermatology. , Dr. Dorsey brings specialization to include Mohs ... Mohs Micrographic Surgery completed by Dr. Dorsey was under the direction of Glenn Goldstein, ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... ... non-athletes recover from injury. Recently, he has implemented orthobiologic procedures as a method ... —Johnson is one of the first doctors to perform the treatment. Orthobiologics are ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... June 19, 2016 is World Sickle Cell ... pain and the benefits of holistic treatments, Serenity Recovery Center of Marne, ... Cell Disease. , Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a disorder of the red blood ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... Comfort Keepers® of San Diego, CA is excited ... To Recovery® program to drive cancer patients to and from their cancer treatments. ... highest quality of life and ongoing independence. Getting to and from medical treatments ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/26/2016)... 27, 2016 Jazz Pharmaceuticals plc (Nasdaq: ... the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended ... Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ("Celator"; Nasdaq: CPXX ) expired ... Time). As previously announced on May 31, ... merger agreement under which Jazz Pharmaceuticals has commenced a ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... 24, 2016  Consumers have taken a more ... placed more emphasis on patient outcomes. ... in the pharmaceutical industry have evolved beyond just ... companies are focusing on becoming more patient-oriented across ... and services that improve health. ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... 24, 2016   Bay Area Lyme Foundation ... Dean Center for Tick Borne Illness , Harvard ... MIT Hacking Medicine, University of California, Berkeley, and ... the five finalists of Lyme Innovation , ... than 100 scientists, clinicians, researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: