From Theory to Practice
According to Benasich, this interactive and fun game could one day help babies born with genetic or other problems who are prone to developing language disorders. Although the team highlighted the importance of concentrating on the science underlying these matters, they shared their excitement regarding the real world applications of their research and the possible development of a device which could be used by parents to train their babies at home.
The Rules of the Game
In the months before they start talking, babies spend their time internalizing speech sounds and learning how to differentiate them from non-speech sounds. The researchers have discovered a way to help babies in this process, so that they become better and more efficient at recognizing speech sounds. The scientists enforced this behavior by rewarding infants with a short, very colorful video when they expressed recognition of certain sounds that carried linguistic information related to the language of their cultural group. The sounds to which the babies were exposed varied from very short ones (tens of milliseconds long) to more complex ones.
So far, the team has not been able to prove whether the babies will grow up to be linguistic geniuses, as the children exposed to the tests need to grow up before this can be asserted. However, the brain scans of this group of 7-month-olds indicate that they have better acoustic processing skills than another group of infants who were exposed to the same series of sounds but had not been shown the videos as a reward.