In the study, the researchers recorded the brainstem responses to complex sounds (cABR) in 23 bilingual English-and-Spanish-speaking teenagers and 25 English-only-speaking teens as they heard speech sounds in two conditions. Under a quiet condition, the groups responded similarly. But against a backdrop of background noise, the bilingual brains were significantly better at encoding the fundamental frequency of speech sounds known to underlie pitch perception and grouping of auditory objects. This enhancement was linked with advantages in auditory attention.
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