The emergence of cerebral specialization for the human voice over the first months of life

Soc Neurosci. 2012;7(3):317-30. doi: 10.1080/17470919.2011.614696. Epub 2011 Sep 28.


How specialized is the infant brain for processing voice within our environment? Research in adults suggests that portions of the temporal lobe play an important role in differentiating vocalizations from other environmental sounds; however, very little is known about this process in infancy. Recent research in infants has revealed discrepancies in the cortical location of voice-selective activation, as well as the age of onset of this response. The current study used functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to further investigate voice processing in awake 4-7-month-old infants. In listening to voice and non-voice sounds, there was robust and widespread activation in bilateral temporal cortex. Further, voice-selective regions of the bilateral anterior temporal cortex evidenced a steady increase in voice selective activation (voice > non-voice activation) over 4-7 months of age. These findings support a growing body of evidence that the emergence of cerebral specialization for human voice sounds evolves over the first 6 months of age.

Keywords: Development; Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS); Infancy; STS region; Voice processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Oxyhemoglobins
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared
  • Time Factors
  • Voice*


  • Oxyhemoglobins