Teenage brains start listening to their mother’s voice around age 13, study finds

Have you ever felt like you’re talking to a brick wall when trying to communicate with your kids?

Well, a new study suggests there might be some science to this, after finding that teenage brains start listening to their mother’s voice around age 13.

That’s because they no longer find it “uniquely gratifying,” the researchers said, and tune in more to unfamiliar voices.

The Stanford School of Medicine study used functional brain MRIs to provide the first detailed neurobiological explanation of how adolescents begin to separate from their parents.

He suggests that when your teenagers can’t seem to hear you, it’s not just that they don’t want to tidy up their room or finish their homework – their brains don’t register your voice like they did before they were teenagers.

Have you ever felt like you're talking to a brick wall when trying to communicate with your kids?  Well, a new study suggests there might be some science to it, after finding that teenage brains start listening to their mother's voice around the age of 13 (stock image)

Have you ever felt like you’re talking to a brick wall when trying to communicate with your kids? Well, a new study suggests there might be some science to it, after finding that teenage brains start listening to their mother’s voice around the age of 13 (stock image)

“Just as an infant knows how to tune in to their mother’s voice, an adolescent knows how to tune in to new voices,” said study lead author Daniel Abrams, clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. .

“As a teenager you don’t know you’re doing this. You are just you: you have your friends and new companions and you want to spend time with them.

“Your mind is more and more sensitive and attracted to these unknown voices.”

In some ways, teenage brains are more receptive to all voices – including their mother’s – than the brains of children under 12, the researchers found, a finding that matches teens’ heightened interest for many types of social signals.

But in adolescent brains, the reward circuits and brain centers that prioritize important stimuli are activated more by unfamiliar voices than by those of their mothers.

The evolution of the brain to new voices is one aspect of healthy maturation, the researchers said.

“A child becomes independent at some point, and that must be precipitated by an underlying biological signal,” said the study’s lead author, Vinod Menon, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

“That’s what we found: It’s a cue that helps teens engage with the world and form connections that allow them to be socially adept outside of their families.”

The Stanford team previously found that in the brains of children 12 and under, hearing a mother’s voice triggers an explosion of unique responses.

A study published in 2016 showed that children can identify their mother’s voice with extremely high accuracy, and that the special sound not only triggers auditory processing areas of the brain, but also many areas not triggered by unfamiliar voices.

This includes reward centers, emotion processing regions, visual processing centers, and brain networks that decide what incoming information is salient.

The Stanford School of Medicine study used functional MRI brain scans to provide the first detailed neurobiological explanation of how adolescents begin to separate from their parents.

The Stanford School of Medicine study used functional MRI brain scans to provide the first detailed neurobiological explanation of how adolescents begin to separate from their parents.

“The mother’s voice is the sound source that teaches young children about the social-emotional world and language development,” said co-lead author and psychiatry and behavioral science researcher Percy Mistry.

“Fetuses in utero can recognize their mother’s voice before they are born, but in adolescents – even though they have spent even more time with this sound source than babies – their brains shift away from it in favor of voices that they never heard.

The new study builds on the previous study, adding data from adolescents aged 13 to 16.5.

The researchers recorded the teens’ mothers saying three nonsense words, which lasted just under a second.

The use of nonsense words ensured that participants would not react to the meaning or emotional content of the words.

Two women who did not know the study subjects were recorded saying the same nonsense words.

Each participating teenage girl listened to multiple repetitions of nonsense-word recordings by her own mother and unknown women, presented in random order, and identified when she heard her mother.

Just like younger children, teenagers correctly identified their mother’s voice more than 97% of the time.

The teenagers were then placed in a magnetic resonance imaging scanner, where they played back the voice recordings.

They also listened to brief recordings of household sounds, such as a running dishwasher, to allow the researchers to see how the brain responds to voices compared to other non-social sounds.

The researchers found that, in adolescents, all voices elicited greater activation in several brain regions compared to younger children: the “voice-selective superior temporal sulcus,” an area of ​​auditory processing; “saliency processing regions” that filter important information; and the “posterior cingulate cortex,” which is involved in aspects of autobiographical and social memory.

Brain responses to voices increased with adolescent age – in fact, the relationship was so strong that researchers could use voice response information in adolescent brain scans to predict their age.

That the brain is so attuned to voices makes sense – just ask anyone who has ever felt an emotional jolt hearing the voice of a friend or family member after a long time. said the researchers.

“The voices in our environment are this incredibly nurturing source of sound that makes us feel connected, included, part of a community, and part of a family,” Abrams said.

“The voices are really what connects us.”

Children’s social interactions undergo a major transformation during adolescence.

“Our results demonstrate that this process is rooted in neurobiological changes,” Menon said.

“When teens seem to rebel by not listening to their parents, it’s because they’re hardwired to pay more attention to voices outside their homes.”

The research was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Teenagers are really ignoring you! Teenagers Spend 12% Less Time Staring at People’s Faces Than Adults, Study Reveals

Teenagers genuinely ignore you, spending less time looking at your face when you talk to them than another adult, a study published last year found.

A team led by the University of Kent recorded three groups of volunteers, aged 10-19, 20-40 and 60-80, in real-life social interaction situations.

The situations involved them having a face-to-face conversation and navigating an environment, with eye-tracking glasses used to monitor their interactions.

The results revealed that adolescents pay less attention to social cues in real-world interactions than adults.

They found that teens and older adults spend 12% less time looking at the face of someone they’re talking to, and 2% less time looking at people in the navigation task compared to young adults. aged 20 to 40.

Interpreting the facial expression, tone of voice and gestures of others is a vital part of social interaction, the researchers explained.

The results show that social attention undergoes age-related changes, the researchers say, adding that this has potential implications for how well we can interpret social interactions in daily life and throughout our lives. .

“Interpreting the facial expression, tone of voice, and gestures of others is a vital part of social interaction,” the authors write.

“These skills allow us to make quick inferences about the mental states of others, such as their intentions, emotions, desires, and beliefs.”

Successful social interaction encourages perspective-taking and empathy along with other essential social skills, and plays an important role in improving our well-being.

The research led by PhD student, Martina De Lillo, alongside Professor Heather Ferguson was the first of its kind to examine how social attention is allocated during adolescence and if it differs from adulthood.

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