Breast-fed infants process speech differently from bottle-fed infants: evidence from neuroelectrophysiology.
Dev Neuropsychol. 2007;31(3):337-47. PMID: 17559328
Numerous studies report positive effects of breast-feeding on infant development. Such effects are apparent early in development as well as in later years. Recently, elements in breast milk, polyunsaturatred fatty acids (PUFAs), have been identified as having great potential for increasing nutritional benefits. PUFAs are long-chain fatty acids containing two or more double bonds. While some scientists are enthusiastic about the long-term benefits of PUFAs on brain and cognitive development, many of the positive pharmacological effects attributed to PUFAs remain unsubstantiated. The present study investigated the differential impact of breast-feeding vs. PUFA-enriched formula in a small but well-matched population of 12 infants tested at 6 months of age. Event-related potential (ERP) and a range of behavior measures were recorded. ERP waveforms identified marked differences between the breast-fed and PUFA-fed infants by 6 months of age. When a range of biological, perinatal, and cognitive factors were equated between the two groups, only the ERPs recorded from breast-fed infants changed throughout their recorded period (700 msec), differentiated between all speech sounds, and generated differences in scalp recordings across all regions recorded across both hemispheres. Such differences in the range of their brain responses could signal an advantage for the breast-fed infants for later linguistic and cognitive development.