Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mom's voice 'plays vital role in activating child's brain'

A mom's voice plays vital role in activating her newborn child's brain responsible for language learning, says a new study.

Researchers from University of Montreal and Sainte- Justine University Hospital Research Centre claim to have made the discovery after performing electrical recordings on the infants within the 24 hours following their birth.

The brain signals also revealed that while the infants did react to other women's voices, these sounds only activated the voice recognition parts of the brains.

"This is exciting research that proves for the first time that the newborn's brain responds strongly to the mother's voice and shows, scientifically speaking, that the mother's voice is special to babies," said lead researcher Dr Maryse Lassonde of the University of Montreal.

Brain exploration had never before been undertaken on such young participants. "We applied electrodes to the heads of 16 babies while they were sleeping," Lassonde explained, "and we asked the mother to make the short 'A' vowel sound -- like in the French word 'allĂ´'.

"We then repeated the exercise with the female nurse who brought the baby to the lab. When the mother spoke, the scans very clearly show reactions in the left-hemisphere of the brain, and in particular the language processing and motor skills circuit.

"Conversely, when the stranger spoke, the right-hemisphere of the brain reacted. The right-hemisphere is associated with voice recognition," he said.

"Motherese" -- the special voice mother's use to communicate with their babies -- is scientifically recognised.

The researchers took this into account by involving a nurse who is herself a mother, and they also countered the "novelty" aspect by arranging for the mother to meet with the nurse at regular intervals before the birth.

Finally, speech analysis was used to ensure that the mother's voice and the voices of the other woman were sufficiently comparable.

"This research confirms that the mother is the primary initiator of language and suggests that there is a neurobiological link between prenatal language acquisition and motor skills involved in speech," Lassonde said.

The findings have been published in the latest edition of the 'Cerebral Cortex' journal.



Countdown of satellite launch begins today

The countdown for ISRO’s GSLV-F06 rocket, which will carry GSAT-5P, India’s latest communication satellite, from Satish Dhawan space centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh begins at 11.01 am on Sunday. GSAT-5P will blast off to space from Sriharikota on Monday.

Space Research Organization’s (ISRO’s) director (publications and public relations) S. Satish said there are 24 C band transponders and 12 extended C band transponders in the 2,310 kg satellite which will be used for communication purposes. “After the satellite is put into final orbit, we will test it and within a month’s time the satellite will be fully operational. The transponders will be used by very small aperture terminal (VSAT) operators for communication,” he said.

Mr. Satish pointed out that the allotment of transponders would be done after the satellite was put into orbit. Monday's launch is to replace Insat2E that was launched in 1999 to cater to Asia and Australia.

The 51-meter-tall, 418-tonne, GSLV is a three-stage satellite launch vehicle. The vehicle’s third stage has the country’s indigenous cryogenic engine which is more efficient and provides more thrust for every kilogram of propellant it burns. The overall length of the vehicle has been increased by about 1.3 meters, compared to previous versions. ISRO has till date launched six GSLV rockets with satellites, of which only four missions were fully successful.