Study: Babies Learn Nursery Rhymes From Their Mom’s Voice While in the Womb

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 23, 2014   |   2:55PM   |   Washington, DC

A fascinating new study confirms that unborn babies do amazing things while in their mother’s womb. A new study shows even before they are born, babies are learning from experience, especially if it’s directly related to their moms.

As Today reports, babies before birth learn nursery rhymes from their mom’s while while in the womb. So much for just being blobs of tissue. Unfortunately, Today insists on using the term fetus, Latin for  “young one,” throughout its report:

For example, while in the womb babies can learn to recognize a nursery rhyme if the mom repeats the verses between weeks 28 and 34, according a study published in Infant Behavior and Development.

ultrasound4d40To take a closer look at what age fetuses are likely to absorb and hang on to new information, researchers from the University of Florida rounded up 32 women who were in their 28th week of pregnancy. The women were asked to recite a nursery rhyme to the babies in their bellies twice a day until the 34th week of pregnancy.

Four weeks later, the moms were brought back into the lab to determine whether the rhyme had been learned.

Figuring that out is a bit of a tricky problem. While infants can be plugged into a brain monitor or EEG, there’s no way to record the brain activity of a fetus. But scientists have figured an ingenious way around that problem using a simple fetal heart monitor. As it turns out studies have shown that a late term fetus’s heart rate will slow down when something familiar is heard.

So, while the moms wore headphones playing Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons,’ a female stranger’s voice recited either the familiar rhyme or a completely different one. The headphones kept the moms from actually hearing when or what their fetuses were being exposed to.

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The heart rates of fetuses who heard a stranger read the familiar rhyme slowed down. The heart rates of those who heard the stranger reading a different rhyme essentially stayed the same.

“We were basically asking the fetus, if your mother says this repeatedly, will you remember it?” said the study’s lead author, Charlene Krueger, an associate professor in nursing at the University of Florida. “As a take away message I would want mothers to understand is that their speech is very important to the developing fetus. When a mother speaks, not only does the fetus hear, but also the whole spine vibrates.”