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Mom’s Voice ‘Light Up’ Children’s Brains, Study Shows

May 18, 2016 06:46 AM EDT
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A mother's voice may do far more than just calm their children. A new study shows that children's brains become more engaged upon hearing their mother's voice.

Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine found out that a mother's voice activates many regions of a child's brain. These regions are involved in reward processing, emotions, social functions, detection of what is relevant to themselves, and face recognition.

This heightened neurological reaction, however, it is only possible for mothers and not for other women, the study says.

"Many of our social, language and emotional processes are learned by listening to our mom's voice," author of the study Daniel Abrams, an instructor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, said in a news release.

"But surprisingly little is known about how the brain organizes itself around this very important sound source. We didn't realize the mother's voice would have such quick access to so many different brain systems," he added.

In the study, researchers analyzed the brain scans of children listening to their mother's voices. The procedure involved 24 children between ages 7 and 12 who were growing up with their biological mothers. Researchers found out that all of the children had an IQ of at least 80 and none of them had developmental disorders.

The children's mothers were recorded saying three nonsense words. Two mothers, whose children were not participating in the study, were also recorded saying three nonsense words.

As the children listened to the recorded clips of both their mothers and the other women, their brains were scanned with MRIs.

The researchers discovered that the children could identify their own mothers' voice with an accuracy of 97%, even with less time to listen to recordings.

Also, several of the children's brain regions became more engaged upon hearing the sound of their mothers' voice than by a stranger, the study found.

According to senior author of the study Vinod Menon, they plan to conduct similar research in kids with autism and are in the process of studying how adolescents respond to their mother's voice to find out whether or not brain responses change as people grow up. 

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