Large-Scale Brain Networks Underlying Language Acquisition in Early Infancy
Full recordShow full item record
AbstractA critical issue in human development is that of whether the language-related areas in the left frontal and temporal regions work as a functional network in preverbal infants. Here, we used 94-channel near-infrared spectroscopy to reveal the functional networks in the brains of sleeping 3-month-old infants with and without presenting speech sounds. During the first 3 min, we measured spontaneous brain activation (period 1). After period 1, we provided stimuli by playing Japanese sentences for 3 min (period 2). Finally, we measured brain activation for 3 min without providing the stimulus (period 3), as in period 1. We found that not only the bilateral temporal and temporoparietal regions but also the prefrontal and occipital regions showed oxygenated hemoglobin signal increases and deoxygenated hemoglobin signal decreases when speech sounds were presented to infants. By calculating time-lagged cross-correlations and coherences of oxy-Hb signals between channels, we tested the functional connectivity for the three periods. The oxy-Hb signals in neighboring channels, as well as their homologous channels in the contralateral hemisphere, showed high correlation coefficients in period 1. Similar correlations were observed in period 2; however, the number of channels showing high correlations was higher in the ipsilateral hemisphere, especially in the anterior–posterior direction. The functional connectivity in period 3 showed a close relationship between the frontal and temporal regions, which was less prominent in period 1, indicating that these regions form the functional networks and work as a hysteresis system that has memory of the previous inputs. We propose a hypothesis that the spatiotemporally large-scale brain networks, including the frontal and temporal regions, underlie speech processing in infants and they might play important roles in language acquisition during infancy.