Mother’s voice plays an important role in early infant development. Now, researchers have found that the brain itself may depend on mothers’ voice and heartbeat for development.
Researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston investigated 40 infants aged 8 to 15 weeks. Like most infants who have a severe preterm birth, they are kept in incubators for a limited time with their mother.
Amir Rahaf, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School at Harvard University, said: “Premature infants born so early are still basically fetuses, and they were born unexpectedly.”
Researchers put small speakers in half of their incubators, playing mother’s voice and heartbeat, playing three hours a day. The other half did not hear such a voice.
After 30 days, the first group of infants had significantly larger auditory cortex than the second group of infants. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, helps guide doctors and parents in the care of premature babies. Premature babies often develop and cognitive disorders.
Dr. Rahaf said, “This is part of the biological formula that birthed the baby.” He added that “any deviations from the original formulation” could lead to developmental problems.
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