"The results emphasise the importance of talking to kids during social interactions even if they aren't talking back yet."
Washington, July 15 - For parents, the day their baby utters its first word is a matter of celebration, and researchers have now shown that the day indeed marks an achievement for the baby brain.
Baby brains start laying down the groundwork of how to form words long before they actually begin to speak, and this may affect the developmental transition, says a study.
Most babies babble by seven months, but don't utter their first words until after their first birthdays, said lead author Patricia Kuhl from Washington University in the US.
The study that involved seven-month-old and 11-month-old infants showed that speech sounds stimulate areas of the brain that coordinate and plan motor movements for speech.
Finding activation in motor areas of the brain when infants are simply listening is significant, because it means the baby brain is engaged in trying to talk back right from the start and suggests that 7-month-olds' brains are already trying to figure out how to make the right movements that will produce words, Kuhl noted.
In the experiment, infants sat in a brain scanner that measures brain activation through a noninvasive technique called magnetoencephalography.
The babies, 57 seven- and 11-month-olds, each listened to a series of native and foreign language syllables such as da and ta as researchers recorded brain responses.
The results emphasise the importance of talking to kids during social interactions even if they aren't talking back yet.
The study appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.