Language experience during the sensitive period narrows infants’ sensory encoding of lexical tones—Music intervention reverses it

Tian Christina Zhao*, Fernando Llanos, Bharath Chandrasekaran, Patricia K. Kuhl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The sensitive period for phonetic learning (6∼12 months), evidenced by improved native speech processing and declined non-native speech processing, represents an early milestone in language acquisition. We examined the extent that sensory encoding of speech is altered by experience during this period by testing two hypotheses: (1) early sensory encoding of non-native speech declines as infants gain native-language experience, and (2) music intervention reverses this decline. We longitudinally measured the frequency-following response (FFR), a robust indicator of early sensory encoding along the auditory pathway, to a Mandarin lexical tone in 7- and 11-months-old monolingual English-learning infants. Infants received either no intervention (language-experience group) or music intervention (music-intervention group) randomly between FFR recordings. The language-experience group exhibited the expected decline in FFR pitch-tracking accuracy to the Mandarin tone, while the music-intervention group did not. Our results support both hypotheses and demonstrate that both language and music experiences alter infants’ speech encoding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number941853
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Volume16
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 9 2022

Keywords

  • Infant speech learning
  • frequency-following response (FFR)
  • lexical tones
  • music intervention
  • sensitive period
  • speech encoding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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