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Why children struggle with the 'cocktail party effect'

February 11, 2019

Researchers have clarified the development of the ability to attend to a speaker in a noisy environment -- a phenomenon known as the "cocktail party effect." Published in JNeurosci, the study could have implications for helping children navigate the often-noisy surroundings in which they grow and learn.

Marc Vander Ghinst and colleagues used magnetoencephalography to measure six- to nine-year-old children and adults' brain activity while listening to a recorded storyteller mixed with background conversations. The researchers found that, compared to adults, children's brains struggled to focus on the intended speaker's voice with increasing background noise levels. Children's brains also had trouble following the syllable rate regardless of the amount of background noise.

The results imply that these abilities are still developing in late childhood and may not fully mature until the teenage years. They also help to explain why children have difficulty understanding speech in noisy backgrounds.
-end-
Article: Cortical tracking of speech-in-noise develops from childhood to adulthood

DOI: https://www.jneurosci.org/lookup/doi/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1732-18.2019

Corresponding author: Marc Vander Ghinst (Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium), Marc.Vander.Ghinst@erasme.ulb.ac.be

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

Society for Neuroscience

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