New study reveals why teens seem to not hear their mother’s voice

(ORDO NEWS) — “Are you even listening to me?”

This is a question that discouraged parents often ask their absent-minded teens, and the truthful answer is likely no.

It’s hard to blame them. New research into the brain of adolescents shows that responses to certain voices naturally change over time, making the mother’s voice seem less valuable to us.

Brain scans of children 12 years of age and younger showed a strong neural response to their mother’s voice, activating the reward and emotion processing centers in the brain.

However, around the 13th birthday of the child, changes occur.

The mother’s voice no longer elicits the same neurological response. Instead, the teenage brain, regardless of gender, appears to be more receptive to all voices in general, whether new or remembered.

The changes are so obvious that the researchers were able to guess the baby’s age simply by how his brain reacted to the mother’s voice.

“Just as an infant tunes in to his mother’s voice, a teenager tunes in to new voices,” explains psychiatrist Daniel Abrams of Stanford University.

“When you’re a teenager, you don’t know you’re doing it. You’re just being yourself: You have friends and new companions and you want to spend time with them. Your mind becomes increasingly sensitive to and attracted to these unfamiliar voices.”

The researchers suspect that this is a sign that a teenager’s brain is developing social skills. In other words, the teenager is not intentionally shutting himself out from his family; his brain is just maturing in a healthy way.

Ample evidence shows that for young children, the mother’s voice plays an important role in their health and development, influencing stress levels, social bonding, feeding skills, and language processing.

Therefore, it is quite logical that the child’s brain will be especially sensitive to the voice of the parent.

However, there comes a time when it becomes more profitable to listen not only to your mother, but also to other people.

“When teenagers seem to rebel against their parents, it’s because they’re primed to pay more attention to voices outside the home,” says neuroscientist Vinod Menon, also from Stanford University.

The results are based on fMRI results published by the same group of researchers in 2016, which showed that in children under the age of 12, the brain circuits are selectively activated by the mother’s voice.

However, when the study was extended to 22 adolescents aged 13 to 16.5, the mother’s voice did not have the same effect.

Instead, all the voices the teens heard activated neural circuits associated with auditory processing, extracting meaningful information, and forming social memories.

When participants were presented with a recording of their mother’s voice saying three nonsense words, as opposed to a stranger’s voice saying the same thing, brain scans showed less activation of reward centers in the brain.

The same was true for the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that helps determine which social information is most valuable.

The researchers hope to study how these brain circuits differ in people with neurological diseases.

For example, researchers at Stanford found that young children with autism do not respond as strongly to their mother’s voice. Knowledge of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying this process can help us understand how social development occurs.

The results of the current study are the first evidence that as we age, our hearing focuses less on the mother and more on the voices of a wide variety of people.

This idea is supported by other behavioral and neuronal studies, which also show that reward centers in the adolescent brain are more sensitive to novelty in general.

These changes can be key components of healthy social development, allowing adolescents to better understand the perspectives and intentions of others.

“At some point, the child becomes independent, and this must be caused by some kind of biological signal,” says Menon.

“That’s what we found: It’s a signal that helps teens interact with the world and form bonds that allow them to be socially adjusted outside of the family.”


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