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News: November 26, 2009

Baby's Crying Patterns Mimic Parents' Accent

November 26, 2009

A baby's cry isn't just a method for getting mom's attention for food or comfort. It is also an important beginning to the development of language.

It is known that fetus can hear outside sounds from the womb during the last three months of pregnancy, but now German researchers have found that babies begin to pick up language patterns from their parents as well.

Kathleen Wermke PhD, lead researcher and medical anthropologist at the University of Wurzburg in Germany, studied the cries of 60 healthy babies born to families who speak either French or German. The full-term babies were between the ages of three and five days old, and had normal hearing. Their findings revealed clear differences in the melody of the infants' cry that corresponded to their mother's accent.

The babies born to French parents cried with a rising accent, from low to high, while the cries of the German babies had a falling inflection. The pattern fits with characteristic differences between the two languages. "Each language is characterized by very specific musical elements in the form of its prosody, that is, its intonation system and constituent rhythm," said Wermke.

Most of the influence is from the mother. Even though the fetus can hear the deeper pitch of the father's voice, which carries better through the abdomen than a higher pitched sound, the mothers voice is also heard internally through the vibration of her vocal cords.

Wermke said: "The dramatic finding of this study is that not only are human neonates capable of producing different cry melodies, but they prefer to produce those melody patterns that are typical for the ambient language they have heard during their fetal life. Newborns are highly motivated to imitate their mother's behavior in order to attract her and hence to foster bonding "

The research is published online in the November issue of the journal Current Biology.

It is already known that fetuses can perceive and memorize sounds from the outside world in the last trimester of pregnancy when the auditory system develops. A prior study noted a change in fetal heart rate when listening to a familiar voice. Other studies have found that shortly after birth, babies are more attentive to their mother's voice than any other sounds, supporting the idea that the develop develops memories that are formed in the womb.

Previous studies of language development had found that infants from 12 weeks of age could match vowel sounds presented to them by adults. Native sounds were not thought to occur until vocal control developed between 7 and 18 months of age. But the new research found that unborn babies are influenced by the sound of language that penetrates the womb and only need well-controlled respiratory-laryngeal systems in order to imitate the melody contours of language.

The concept that fetuses can learn does not support playing classical music for unborn children or the use of "fetal learning systems" marketed as a way to give babies a head start by playing certain sounds through the abdomen. But parents-to-be are encouraged to talk and sing to their children while still in the womb, and during the first year of life both to foster bonding and to promote language development.



Archive issues: (50)

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November 23, 2009 | Genetic Variant Slows AIDS Progression

Scientists report that a genetic variation appears to play a major role in slowing disease progression in HIV-infected patients.  In fact, those with the variation appear to take years longer to develop AIDS and die of complications of the disease.  "We're honing in on factors that vary across individuals that make a person more or less susceptible to HIV, in terms of how rapidly someone develops the ...

November 22, 2009 | FDA To Reduce the Misuse of Medications

The FDA wants to reduce the misuse of medications, saying that at least 50,000 hospitalizations a year could be prevented if physicians, pharmacists, patients and parents would be more careful. And the cost of these preventable injuries is estimated at about $4 billion annually by the Institute of ...

November 21, 2009 | Diabetes Drug Byetta Linked to Kidney Problems

The FDA has received 78 reports of kidney problems related to Byetta, a drug by Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Eli-Lilly prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes. With the new findings, the drug's label will be updated to warn doctors and patients about this possible side effect.  Byetta (exenatide) was approved in 2005. It's known as an incretin mimetic, which copies the action of incretin GLP-1, a hormone that is released in response to ...

Archive list: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 [8] 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

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