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Centre for Neuroscience in Education


New research findings have been published from the BabyRhythm project, funded by the European Research Council (ERC).

A recent publication reveals how the infant brain tracks the rhythm of visual speech, and how this has implications for later language development. As part of the BabyRhythm project, in which infants’ brain responses to speech, sounds, and song were studied across the course of their first year of life, the same babies were shown videos of a woman speaking rhythmically with the audio removed. When we process speech, we don’t just use our ears – we also watch the speaker’s face moving. At five and eight months, there was an increase in brain activity at rate at which she was speaking. This brain response also showed consistency in how it lined up with the rate of the woman’s speech. By eight months, the timing of the brain response was not only consistent within individuals, it was similar across individuals. Furthermore, this timing at 8 months was related to infants’ vocabulary size at the age of 2 years. Similarly to our work with the same infants studying their tracking of audio-visual speech, this suggests that there may be a typical or perhaps “optimal” way for the brain to track the rhythm of speech – even when that speech is seen but not heard.

Read the article here.