babbling, reflecting the human left hemi- sphere control of natural language. If bab- bling were simply a way for the baby to flexthe motor control system for the mouth,tongue, and throat—no different from the system used in chewing—then symmetry inmouth opening would have been observed.
Instead, we witnessed an asymmetrical pat-tern of mouth opening for babbling, whichsupports the fundamentally linguistic view Siobhan Holowka1 and Laura Ann Petitto1,2* that babbling reflects babies’ sensitivity toand production of patterns in the linguistic Baby babbling is the universal developmental opening, two “blind” independent coders scored input (1). We thus conclude that babbling milestone before the onset of language pro- 150 randomly selected segments of babbles, represents the onset of the productive lan- duction in humans, yet little is known about nonbabbles, and smiles according to whether whether the neural determinants of this be- greater right, left, or equal mouth opening was havior are fundamentally linguistic (1, 2) or observed. A standard Laterality Index (LI) (5) reflect only oral-motor developments (3, 4 ).
was computed for each baby for their production sphere cerebral specialization for babies In adults, the presence of right asymmetry in of babbles, nonbabbles, and smiles: LI ϭ (R Ϫ while babbling, which, in turn, suggests that mouth aperture during linguistic tasks as L/R ϩ L ϩ E), and mean LI scores were calcu- language functions in humans are lateralized contrasted with left or equal mouth opening lated for each group of babies (English and from a very early point in development.
during nonlinguistic tasks has been widely French). Thus, a mean positive LI score indicat- Moreover, the smile results illustrate the ed more instances of right mouth opening, and a specificity of the right-sided mouth advan- cerebral specialization for language (5).
mean negative LI score indicated more instances tage of babbling behavior in babies, corrob- that, like adults (7 ), babies’ emo- Fig. 1. Consecutive frames from video recordings showing a baby’s left
mouth opening while smiling (left) and right mouth opening while babbling
(right). Mean LI scores for all of the babies were as follows: babble ϭ ϩ0.88
(red), nonbabble ϭ Ϫ0.08 (yellow), and smile ϭ Ϫ0.82 (blue).
vide insight into the neural basisof babbling and hence into the origins of of left mouth opening for the given production.
References and Notes
The mean LI scores indicated that all babies 1. L. A. Petitto, S. Holowka, L. E. Sergio, D. Ostry, Nature 413, 35 (2001).
To control for any language-specific effects had right mouth asymmetry while babbling, 2. S. Pinker, P. Bloom, in The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary of mouth asymmetry, we videotaped 10 babies equal mouth opening while nonbabbles were Psychology and the Generation of Culture, J. H.
acquiring either English (n ϭ 5) or French (n ϭ Barkow et al., Eds. (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 5). The babies were studied between the ages of smiling (Fig. 1). Statistical analysis was per- 3. P. F. MacNeilage, B. L. Davis, Science 288, 527 (2000).
5 and12 months, according to the age at which formed with a two-way mixed analysis of vari- 4. J. L. Locke, Science 288, 449 (2000).
each baby first entered the syllabic babbling ance: group (English and French) ϫ production 5. R. Graves, T. Landis, Int. J Psych. 25, 179 (1990).
6. M. S. Gazzaniga, C. Smylie, Neurology 13, 536 (1983).
stage. Once this developmental milestone was (babble, nonbabble, and smile). No significant 7. J. C. Borod et al., Neuropsychologia 26, 759 (1988).
achieved, we examined three types of oral ac- effect of group was detected (F ϭ 0.09, NS), 8. We thank D. W. Holowka, K. Dunbar, U. Harasymo- tivity produced by the babies: babbles, non- indicating that no significant differences were wycz, and K. Byers-Heinlein. L.A.P. was funded by the babbles, and smiles (table S1). Babbles were found between the English and French babies Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Spencer Foundation, and Dartmouth defined as vocalizations that contained a re- (table S1). A significant main effect was dis- duced subset of possible sounds ( phonetic covered for production (F ϭ 236.91, P Ͻ Supporting Online Material
units) found in spoken language, had redupli- 0.001), and all pair-wise comparisons were sig- cated (repeated) syllabic organization (conso- nificant (P Ͻ 0.001), indicating that the babies’ nant-vowel alternations), and were produced mouth opening differed depending on whether without apparent meaning or reference; all vo- a babble, nonbabble, or smile was produced calizations lacking any of these three criteria 1Department of Psychology, McGill University, 1205 were coded as nonbabbles. Spontaneous smiles Dr. Penfield Avenue, Montre´al, Que´bec, H3A 1B1, were coded as an additional control of babies’ remained elusive as a result of controversy Canada. 2Department of Psychological and Brain Sci- ences and Department of Education, Dartmouth Col- specificity of mouth opening for distinctive over the neural basis of babbling. Like adults, lege, 302 Silsby Hall, Hanover, NH 03755, USA.
the right mouth asymmetry observed in ba- *To whomcorrespondence should be addressed.
At 50 ms (three video frames) from initial lip bies suggests left hemisphere asymmetry for SCIENCE VOL 297 30 AUGUST 2002


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