Human infant brains respond to high pitched lemur calls too

Baby brains can be stunned by the calls of non-human primates. It’s not only the parent’s voice that these infants are attuned to, the baby brains are hard wired towards the primates also but this cognitive ability is only for a few months.

Link between thought and language

Ever noticed a small child’s woebegone look when they hear their parents voice. There is an instant recognition of human speech by the child. However, a research shows that the artificial sounds do not engage the attention of infants as much as the whoop of a blue-eyed lemur from Madagascar does. The baby brains are hard wired and their cognitive skills respond to sounds of the non-human primates indicating that there may be a strong link between thought and language.

The research study

For the study, about 72 infants in age group of 3-6 showed a noteworthy reaction to the sounds of humans, lemur and artificial mediums. A projector screen was set up and the 3-4 month old babies were shown 8 shapes of similar dinosaurs.

The researchers played some different sounds in a loop in the background. After this, the team projected the image of a 9th dinosaur that had been put up next to a fish like image, which was absolutely different. According to Waxman, “If the baby has noticed what’s common about the objects, they’re going to prefer this as one over the other.”

The research study assumptions

Sandra Waxman, professor of cognitive psychology at Northwestern University and a co-author on the new study, stated that, “The link is sufficiently broad to include the call of this adorable lemur. The fact that there’s this precocious link between language and thought … it’s just hands-down amazing.”

She said that the infants by birth are sensitive to the sounds made from the mouths of the primates and have “twin engines of development” for the first few months after their birth. These development stages constantly work in the child but as the time passes the babies learn how to filter sounds and stop paying attention to the sounds that are not human.”It’s the human voices that stay relevant in their lives,” say the experts.

Implications of the study

The research showed that was a strong response to baby talks at a high pitch. The research team played human speech that rattled backwards, lemur calls tuned at a very high pitch and some mechanical tones.

The best way to gauge the response of the baby is to see in which direction and for how much time they look and that is exactly what the research team did.

Waxman noted the babies’ response and said, “They were doing some much fancier cognitive dancing during the lemur and human vocalization than in the case of backward speech or tones.”

The test indicated that when the infants were listening to the artificial sounds, they showed less interest in the task. The research team also noticed that when the infants reached the six month age they were not receptive to lemur calls and responded well to human voices.

The research study concludes that with time the infants had become more sensitive to human voices.

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