AUTHORS: Adam-Darque A, Pittet MP, Grouiller F, Rihs TA, Leuchter RH, Lazeyras F, Michel CM, Hüppi PS

Cerebral Cortex, 9(144): , June 2020


Maternal voice is a highly relevant stimulus for newborns. Adult voice processing occurs in specific brain regions. Voice-specific brain areas in newborns and the relevance of an early vocal exposure on these networks have not been defined. This study investigates voice perception in newborns and the impact of prematurity on the cerebral processes. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and high-density electroencephalography (EEG) were used to explore the brain responses to maternal and stranger female voices in full-term newborns and preterm infants at term-equivalent age (TEA). fMRI results and the EEG oddball paradigm showed enhanced processing for voices in preterms at TEA than in full-term infants. Preterm infants showed additional cortical regions involved in voice processing in fMRI and a late mismatch response for maternal voice, considered as a first trace of a recognition process based on memory representation. Full-term newborns showed increased cerebral activity to the stranger voice. Results from fMRI, oddball, and standard auditory EEG paradigms highlighted important change detection responses to novelty after birth. These findings suggest that the main components of the adult voice-processing networks emerge early in development. Moreover, an early postnatal exposure to voices in premature infants might enhance their capacity to process voices.

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