Notice how your child’s eyes light up when you talk to her? It’s not just you. There really is something special about a mom’s voice.
A child’s brain responds more strongly to their mom’s voice than to a stranger’s, according to a recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“We know that hearing [their] mother's voice can be an important source of emotional comfort to children. Here, we're showing the biological circuitry underlying that,” says lead author Daniel Abrams, instructor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.
What’s more, participants of the study showed that children could identify their mom’s voice among others even if they heard it for less than a second and the mom spoke nonsense words. Yes, less than a second. That’s how strong your bond is with your child.
The study involved scanning the brains of 24 kids, ages 7 to 12, while they listened to short clips which were less than a second long. The clips were of voices speaking nonsense words. Two of the voices belonged to women the child did not know and the third belonged to the child’s mother.
Results showed that the children were able to identify their mother’s voice correctly 97 percent of the time despite it being gibberish and very brief. The areas of their brain related to emotions, rewards, and facial recognition also lit up more when they heard the voice of their mom compared to the women strangers.
Previous studies have already shown the power of a mother’s voice, the study notes. Research shows, for instance, that newborns who are only a few days old can already identify the sound of their mothers’ voice among the voices of other women.
Researchers of the study speculate that the involvement of so many areas of the brain may explain why a child could identify their mom’s voice so rapidly.
The takeaway? Keep on talking to your child, even if he can’t talk back yet. It is the foundation of an intimate attachment and a trusting relationship with your child, Alice Sterling Honig, Ph.D., professor emerita of child development of Syracuse University in the U.S said on Scholastic.
Talk to your baby by answering all your baby’s gurgles, coos and smiles, says Honig. “As baby starts to make these babbling sounds, express your pleasure,” she says. “Be sure to give spaces in between your talking so that baby can talk back with babbles and more vocalizing on a variety of pitches.
You can also teach him new words during his daily activities, like “cereal” during breakfast and pointing out and naming body parts when you’re giving him a bath, says Honig. And, of course, you can always read picture books with your baby and sing nursery rhymes to him. “Don't worry about your voice. Baby will enjoy your songs because you are singing them!”