Neural language networks at birth

Daniela Perani, Maria C. Saccuman, Paola Scifo, Alfred Awander, Danilo Spada, Cristina Baldoli, Antonella Poloniato, Gabriele Lohmann, Angela D. Friederici

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to learn language is a human trait. In adults and children, brain imaging studies have shown that auditory language activates a bilateral frontotemporal network with a left hemispheric dominance. It is an open question whether these activations represent the complete neural basis for language present at birth. Here we demonstrate that in 2-d-old infants, the language-related neural substrate is fully active in both hemispheres with a preponderance in the right auditory cortex. Functional and structural connectivities within this neural network, however, are immature, with strong connectivities only between the two hemispheres, contrasting with the adult pattern of prevalent intrahemispheric connectivities. Thus, although the brain responds to spoken language already at birth, thereby providing a strong biological basis to acquire language, progressive maturation of intrahemispheric functional connectivity is yet to be established with language exposure as the brain develops.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16056-16061
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number38
Publication statusPublished - Oct 20 2011


  • Brain activity
  • Dorsal pathway
  • Newborns
  • Ventral pathway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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