Brain, Biology and Behavior, Center for


Date of this Version


Document Type



Published in Brain and Language 199 (2019) 104695



Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Inc. Used by permission.


Newborns habituate to repeated auditory stimuli, and discriminate syllables, generating opportunities for early language learning. This study investigated trial-by-trial changes in newborn electrophysiological responses to auditory speech syllables as an index of habituation and novelty detection. Auditory event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded from 16 term newborn infants, aged 1–3 days, in response to monosyllabic speech syllables presented during habituation and novelty detection tasks. Multilevel models demonstrated that newborns habituated to repeated auditory syllables, as ERP amplitude attenuated for a late-latency component over successive trials. Subsequently, during the novelty detection task, earlyand late-latency component amplitudes decreased over successive trials for novel syllables only, indicating encoding of the novel speech syllable. We conclude that newborns dynamically encoded novel syllables over relatively short time periods, as indicated by a systematic change in response patterns with increased exposure. These implications for understanding early precursors of learning and memory in newborns.