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This research assesses, in newborns, the hemodynamic response to acoustically modified syllables (pronounced in a prolonged manner), versus the response to unmodified syllables (pronounced at a normal rate). The aim was to assess which of these stimulation conditions produced better syllable discrimination in two groups of neonates: 13 preterm (mean gestational age 30 weeks, SD 3 weeks), and 13 full term newborns (mean age 38 weeks, SD 1 week). Syllable discrimination, in each condition, was assessed by using an oddball paradigm (equal syllable trials vs. different syllable trials). The statistical analysis was based on the comparison between the hemodynamic response [oxyHbO] obtained by Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) to different syllable trials vs. equal syllable trials, in each condition. The modified syllable condition was better in producing trial discrimination in both groups. The amplitude of the hemodynamic response to the different syllable trials was greater than the one to the equal syllable trials: for term infants, t = 2.59, p = 0.024, and for preterm t = 2.38, p = 0.035. This finding occurred in the left temporal lobe. These data suggest that the modified syllables facilitate processing of phonemes from birth.
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