Minai said there was already a study that suggested fetuses could discriminate between different types of language, based on rhythmic patterns, but none using the more accurate device available at the Hoglund Brain Imaging Center at KU Medical Center called a magnetocardiogram (MCG). “The previous study used ultrasound to see whether fetuses recognized changes in language by measuring changes in fetal heart rate,” Minai said. “The speech sounds that were presented to the fetus in the two different languages were spoken by two different people in that study. They found that the fetuses were sensitive to the change in speech sounds, but it was not clear if the fetuses were sensitive to the differences in language or the differences in speaker, so we wanted to control for that factor by having the speech sounds in the two languages spoken by the same person.” Minai had a bilingual speaker make two recordings, one each in English and Japanese, to be played in succession to the fetus. English and Japanese are argued to be rhythmically distinctive. English speech has a dynamic rhythmic structure resembling Morse code signals, while Japanese has a more regular-paced rhythmic structure. Sure enough, the fetal heart rates changed when they heard the unfamiliar, rhythmically distinct language (Japanese) after having heard a passage of English speech, while their heart rates did not change when they were presented with a second passage of English instead of a passage in Japanese.Well, I'd argue with the Morse/non-Morse analogy. Japanese is more like Morse numbers, while English is more like Morse letters. Still not good. Standard English has very little distinction of length and lots of variation in pitch and intensity. Nevertheless, the two languages are unquestionably different when seen in envelope form. Here's a comparison of two 30-second segments. Upper is two Americans discussing urban planning, lower is two Japs discussing something or other. The real difference is not the rhythm of syllables but the shape of each syllable. English syllables are rounder and longer. Most Jap syllables are short and sharp, with some very long sentence-ending downsweeps, especially from females. Perceiving and anticipating rhythm is a uniquely human talent among mammals. Most birds and some insects can do it, but other mammals fail. = = = = = Later constants and variables note: 1. The study says "the heart doesn't hear", so the action must have been mediated by the brain. Wouldn't be so sure. The eardrum and ossicles are designed to couple airborne sound to a fluid cochlea. They don't work well underwater when the source and sink are both liquid. Unborn babies are unquestionably swimming, and the auditory system is a late bloomer. More likely the heart IS hearing the vibrations, mechanically or via the vagus nerve, from the entire body. 2. The authors state explicitly that the heart is speeding up because of the unfamiliarity of Japanese. Wouldn't be so sure. The heart is a highly responsive astable multivibrator, constantly phaselocking to incoming rhythm. Musicians and propagandists understand this response. That's why war is accompanied by marches, and that's why Cable Fake "News" is accompanied by a constant backbeat. The shorter sharper syllables of Japanese should phaselock the heart to anticipate a faster rhythm whether the actual speech is faster or not. Phaselocking works best through the entire body, which is why marching bands and rock bands emphasize frequencies BELOW audible range. Feel that bass drum in your belly? So does the unborn baby inside the belly. I would have designed the experiment to check for this effect, using a third language with even rounder syllables than English, eg Brazilian Portuguese. Make six ordered pairs from the three languages. Then you'd know if the phaselock or the unfamiliarity was dominant. = = = = = "The heart is a highly responsive astable multivibrator" would be a good title for a romance novel in the Harlequin Autistic Series.
Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.