Kids are wired to hear their mom’s voice better than anyone else’s
When it comes to their kids, moms have superpowers. We can tell when they’re lying, sick, hurt, tired or hungry with barely more than a glance. We can hear their tiniest cries from several rooms away — and as it turns out, they can hear us too. Science confirms that kids’ brains are wired to pick out their mothers’ voices above any others.
Despite all the terrible listening that would suggest otherwise.
According to a study published last week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, kids’ brains are designed to more strongly respond to their mothers’ voices than a stranger’s, even when the words are total nonsense or heard for only a split second.
The study was produced by the results of brain scans performed on 24 healthy kids between ages 7 and 12. During the scans, the kids got to hear clips less than a second long of their mother’s voice speaking nonsensical words and clips by two women the children didn’t know.
A staggering 97% of the time, the kids identified their mothers’ voice. Keep in mind, these clips were less than a second long and not even actual words. That’s pretty amazing and proves the incredible bond mothers share with their children.
Now, the fun part. The researchers discovered that the parts of the child’s brain related to “reward, emotion and face-processing centers” were the areas that lit up during the scan.
In other words, they hear us because their very neural make-up tells them we will make them happy and possibly, give them shit. Because, of course.
Since their little brains are trained to hear us more easily than anyone else because they might be in some way rewarded, they can recognize us, even under the most nebulous circumstances. If you dare speak a word in their vicinity, even if the room is crowded, they probably recognized you. How…comforting?
It is, really. It’s amazing that biology provides these little connections between mother and child. It’s easy to imagine back in caveman times, this kind of phenomenon helped to keep the straying cave children close to their mother for their own safety. If they could pick out her voice above all others, it might have somehow kept them from being eaten by a saber-tooth tiger. As for modern kids?
If they perk up their ears, they might get some fruit snacks. Or a juice box!
As far as the practical and clinical value of this study, researchers also looked at the connectivity in the brain when the kids heard the voice clips and found that social communication skills were better in children with better connectivity. The “neural fingerprint” in kids who have these solid social communication skills can be used to help understand why children with autism or other disorders affecting communication have trouble with these connections.
No matter what, it’s very cool to know that our voices have such an impact on our kids that they’re literally imprinted on their brains for all of time. Now, if only they would actually listen when we talk about something other than snacks and their iPads.