Functional Neuroimaging of Speech Perception in Infants

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Science  06 Dec 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5600, pp. 2013-2015
DOI: 10.1126/science.1077066

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Human infants begin to acquire their native language in the first months of life. To determine which brain regions support language processing at this young age, we measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging the brain activity evoked by normal and reversed speech in awake and sleeping 3-month-old infants. Left-lateralized brain regions similar to those of adults, including the superior temporal and angular gyri, were already active in infants. Additional activation in right prefrontal cortex was seen only in awake infants processing normal speech. Thus, precursors of adult cortical language areas are already active in infants, well before the onset of speech production.

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