“Are you listening to me?”
Disappointed parents often ask this question to distracted teenagers, and the honest answer is probably “No”.
It’s hard to really blame them. New research on adolescent brains shows that our response to a particular sound naturally changes over time, and that our mother’s voice is less valuable.
Brain scans of children under 12 years of age showed an explosive neuronal response to the mother’s voice, activating the reward centers and emotion processing centers in the brain.
But at the same time, at the age of 13, things change.
The mother’s voice does not produce the same neurological response as before. On the contrary, the adolescent’s brain responds to all new and memorable sounds, regardless of gender.
The changes were so obvious that researchers were able to determine a child’s behavior only by how their brains responded to the mother’s voice.
Daniel Abrams, a psychiatrist at Stanford University, explains, “Just as a baby knows how to tune its mother’s voice, a teenager knows how to tune new sounds.”
“When you’re a teenager, you don’t know you’re doing it. You’re just you: you have friends and new partners and you want to spend time with them. Your mind is becoming more and more sensitive to them. These are unfamiliar sounds.”
Researchers suspect that this is a sign that the brains of teenagers are developing social skills. In other words, a teenager does not intentionally close his family; Their brains are maturing in a healthy way.
Numerous studies have shown that for young children, a mother’s voice plays an important role in their health and development, influencing their stress levels, their social connections, their eating habits and their ability to speak.
Thus, a child’s brain responds especially to the voice of his parents.
However, it is better to listen to others than your mother.
Vinod Menon, a neurobiologist at Stanford University, says that if teenagers seem to be rebelling against what their parents are saying, it’s because they pay more attention to the noise outside their home.
Researchers based fMRI results in 2016 that showed that brain schemes in children under 12 years of age were selected by the mother’s voice.
The study found that 22 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16.5 had no effect on their mother’s voice.
On the contrary, all the sounds that teenagers hear activate neural circuits associated with the hearing process, select important information, and create social memories.
When asked to record the voice of a mother saying three nonsensical words, as opposed to the voice of a stranger saying the same thing, participants’ brain scanners actually showed activation of the brain’s reward centers.
The same was true of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is part of the brain that helps determine which social information is most valuable.
Researchers hope to see how these neurological schemes of the brain differ from those of people with the condition.
For example, among young children, Stanford researchers have found that people with autism do not respond as well to their mother’s voice. Learning more about neurobiological mechanisms will help you understand how social development occurs.
The results of the current study are the first to show that as we get older, our hearing becomes less focused on our mother, and more attention is paid to different people’s voices.
The idea is supported by other behavioral and neural studies, which are also marked by increased sensitivity to the news centers in the brains of adolescents in general.
These changes can be key components of healthy social development that allow adolescents to better understand the views and intentions of others.
“The child will become independent at some point and this should ignite with a basic biological signal,” Menon says.
“It’s what we’re discovering: it’s a signal that helps teens connect with the world and build connections that allow them to be socially capable outside of their families.”
Published in a research journal Journal of Neuroscience.