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The developmental origins of voice processing in the human brain

By Tobias Grossmann, R. Oberecker, S.P. Koch and A.D. Friederici


In human adults, voices are processed in specialized brain regions in superior temporal cortices. We examined the development of this cortical organization during infancy by using near-infrared spectroscopy. In experiment 1, 7-month-olds but not 4-month-olds showed increased responses in left and right superior temporal cortex to the human voice when compared to nonvocal sounds, suggesting that voice-sensitive brain systems emerge between 4 and 7 months of age. In experiment 2, 7-month-old infants listened to words spoken with neutral, happy, or angry prosody. Hearing emotional prosody resulted in increased responses in a voice-sensitive region in the right hemisphere. Moreover, a region in right inferior frontal cortex taken to serve evaluative functions in the adult brain showed particular sensitivity to happy prosody. The pattern of findings suggests that temporal regions specialize in processing voices very early in development and that, already in infancy, emotions differentially modulate voice processing in the right hemisphere

Topics: psyc
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2010
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