According to Today Moms, these results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study’s researchers asked 17 pregnant mothers to play a CD comprised of two, four minute sequences of made-up words from week 29 of gestation up until the birth of their child. Once the babies were born, scientists played words from the CD, coupled with an EEG brain scan to document whether the babies’ brains responded.
By looking at the babies’ brain activity, scientists could tell that the infants who were exposed to the CD in utero recognized the nonsense words and noticed the pitch changes. In contrast, babies who were not exposed to the CD did not have the same level of activity.
According to Eino Partanen, a doctoral student and lead author on the paper, “We have known that fetuses can learn certain sounds from their environment during pregnancy. We can now very easily assess the effects of fetal learning on a very detailed level — like in our study, [we] look at the learning effects to very small changes in the middle of a word.”
Does this mean you can now teach your baby from the womb? More research is warranted, but researchers say the findings support the idea that an unborn fetus can learn and remember just as well as a newborn. They say it may be worthwhile to expose babies to more sounds before they are even born.
Partenen says, “The better we know how the fetus’ brain works, the more we’ll know [about] early development of language. If we know better how language develops very early, we may one day be able to develop very early interventions [for babies with abnormal development].”