If there is a moment when a human being discovers the difference between the verbs hear Y to listenthat is without a doubt when you have at home teenage children. Yes, they may hear you, but there will always be something more interesting to pay attention to. From the latest TikTok video to a fly fluttering around his room. It might seem like a rudeness from the kids, but the truth is that it is a sign that everything is going well in his brain. At least that’s the conclusion of a study recently published in Journal of Neurosciencewhich analyzes how children and adolescents react to the voices of their mothers.
When they are twelve years old or younger, the fact of hearing the voice of the person who brought them into the world generates a storm of activity in their brainsespecially in the reward systems. It could be said that for children it is pleasant hear the voice of their mothers, so they are very attentive to it. However, more or less At 13 years old the situation changes. Almost any other voice generates more activity in their brains, so they hear it, yes, but they don’t always listen.
This makes evolutionary sense. when we are little we depend a lot on our mothers. They feed us, clothe us, take care of us and help us develop our first skills. Yes, today parents are also involved here (or at least they should), but in the case of our ancestors they were tasks more linked to the parents. However, as we get older we open up to the world and social interaction becomes very important. In the stone age and in the 21st century. So it stands to reason that the brain would begin to reward us for paying attention to other voices.
The effect of mothers’ voices on the brain
The study just published by these scientists from the Stanford University consists of two parts. The first was published in 2016 and included 24 children, with a mean age of 10.2 years. The one that has just been published is the second part, in which the data of 22 teenagers aged between 13 and 16.5 years.
All of them underwent a magnetic resonance function(fMRI) of their brains as they listened to two types of recordings with a few unrelated words. In the first it was the voice of her mothers who pronounced them. However, in the second she was an unknown person.
In the 2016 study, a great deal of activity was generated in areas involved in reward system with the first recording. In contrast, with adolescents, the greatest activity occurred with the unknown voice.
This does not mean that from the age of 13 we are no longer interested in listening to our mothers. But it does get stronger. pay attention to other people’s voicesbecause that helps establish those social links how useful they are to us when we become adults.
And it wasn’t just reward systems that showed activity. The authors of this study found that there were other areas of the brain that showed differences between the mothers’ voice and the recording of an unknown person.
For example, adolescents with the second recording showed greater activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortexin charge of helping to determine which information is more valuable.
What is this study for?
It could be said that this study serves to calm fathers and mothers who are desperate to see how their words flutter around the ears of their adolescent children, without reaching their brains. But it is actually much more than that.
These scientists believe that analyzing the neural circuitry involved in processing the voices of mothers and strangers it can help to better understand how the brain works in some disorders. For example, it has been seen that children with autism they do not have such an intense response to the voice of their mothers. This is data that can provide very useful information to understand how they relate to the environment that surrounds them.
Of course, that will require more research, but it’s a good start. At the moment, this is the only study that shows that the way we react to the voice of our mothers changes as we become adults. Luckily, they don’t care. And it is that, as much as our brain makes us focus on other voices, mothers will always be there to support us. Because as children, adolescents or adults, they never stop missing us.