Background and Aims Premature birth has an impact on brain maturation that can be measured at term equivalent age (TEA) with neuroimaging techniques. The aim of our study is to determine the neural pathways and processes that are activated in term babies and preterm infants (GA < 32wks) at term after listening to their mother’s voice and a stranger’s voice with EEG and fMRI techniques. Our secondary aim is to differentiate innate (genetically determined) and acquired (determined by experience) networks. Here we present the results of the EEG analysis of the preterm recordings.
Methods High-density (109-channel) recordings were performed for subsequent event-related potentials (ERPs) analysis on newborns while listening to their mother’s voice and the voice of an unknown woman saying a short phrase. Two groups were tested: premature newborns tested at TEA (GA:28.7wks) and full term controls (GA:40wks).
Results For preterm babies, the ERP results showed significant differences on left temporal electrodes when they listened to their mother’s voice compared to a stranger’s voice with an increased negativity at 100ms post voice onset (t-test; p<0.05). At later stages of voice processing, significant differences were found between 220–320ms with increased positivity for the mothers voice over right temporal electrodes.
Conclusions By showing specific activation in preterm babies at term when they listen to their mother’s voice, our results suggest that the maturation of the auditory network can be influenced by these early experiences resulting in an early differentiation between their mother’s voice and the voice of a stranger.