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Acta Paediatr Suppl. 1994 Jun;397:86-93.

The role of mother's voice in the organization of brain function in the newborn.

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New York State Psychiatric Institute, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, NY 10032.


Newborn infants prefer the sound of the maternal voice within the first two days after birth. This early preference may be based on prenatal experience. The mother's voice is reported to be the most intense acoustical signal measured in the amniotic environment. Data showing the ability of the newborn to demonstrate voice preferences are presented. We have also investigated the response of the perinatal autonomic nervous system to speech sound stimulation. Both the newborn and fetus show heart rate decelerations in response to speech sounds. This cardiorespiratory attentional response occurs during sleep when sensory stimulation is probably influencing perinatal brain development. Early experience with voice has both acute and enduring effects on the developing brain. These effects have ramifications for the development of the auditory system, as well as for later social and emotional development. Further speculation and discussion on the form, function and assessment of newborn responsiveness to voice will be offered.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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