Saturday, July 22, 2017

Language Development Starts in the Womb #Science #Gestation #Health

Disclaimer:  the Rockhouse firmly supports freedom to choose but this article will not push that position or any other.  You may find the information interesting for its own sake since it shows the importance of the full nine-month gestation, even in the last month.  If there's any editorial it's that gestation needs to run for the full term for all the maternal blessings mother and biology can confer.

Kathleen Gustafson, a research associate professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Kansas Medical Center's Hoglund Brain Imaging Center (right), with a mother-to-be in the fetal biomagnetometer.

Credit: KU News Service photo

Mother doesn't seem too bugged by that machine even if it has the look of no way am I getting inside that.

Note to whomever wrote that credit:  she's already a mother; she just didn't deliver the payload yet.

A month before they are born, fetuses carried by American mothers-to-be can distinguish between someone speaking to them in English and Japanese.

Using non-invasive sensing technology from the University of Kansas Medical Center for the first time for this purpose, a group of researchers from KU's Department of Linguistics has shown this in-utero language discrimination. Their study published in the journal NeuroReport has implications for fetal research in other fields, the lead author says.

Science Daily:  Language development starts in the womb

Caution on getting too heady with this since you know there is no fetus which ever arrived speaking any language.  However, it does appear they start to recognize which one is home before they arrive.

Maybe this bit is too geeky but it gives some background on how the research was performed.

Two dozen women, averaging roughly eight months pregnant, were examined using the MCG.

Kathleen Gustafson, a research associate professor in the Department of Neurology at the medical center's Hoglund Brain Imaging Center, was part of the investigator team.

"We have one of two dedicated fetal biomagnetometers in the United States," Gustafson said. "It fits over the maternal abdomen and detects tiny magnetic fields that surround electrical currents from the maternal and fetal bodies."

That includes, Gustafson said, heartbeats, breathing and other body movements.

"The biomagnetometer is more sensitive than ultrasound to the beat-to-beat changes in heart rate," she said. "Obviously, the heart doesn't hear, so if the baby responds to the language change by altering heart rate, the response would be directed by the brain."

Which is exactly what the recent study found.

- SD

Since you're wanting the punchline, let's have it.

Minai had a bilingual speaker make two recordings, one each in English and Japanese, to be played in succession to the fetus. English and Japanese are argued to be rhythmically distinctive. English speech has a dynamic rhythmic structure resembling Morse code signals, while Japanese has a more regular-paced rhythmic structure.

Sure enough, the fetal heart rates changed when they heard the unfamiliar, rhythmically distinct language (Japanese) after having heard a passage of English speech, while their heart rates did not change when they were presented with a second passage of English instead of a passage in Japanese.

- SD

In case you're not convinced, the interested student is invited back to the source article which has more on the methodology and the result.

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