Your Baby Can Learn Things Like Nursery Rhymes, While Still in the Womb: Study Says

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By Indrani Bhattacharyya | July 24, 2014 1:37 PM EST

Much before birth, a baby starts learning from experience, mostly directly from mother, according to a recent report which got published in the journal Infant Behavior and Development.

“The mother’s voice is the predominant source of sensory stimulation in the developing fetus,” said Krueger, lead author and an associate professor in the UF College of Nursing.

Reuters
Karen Giral, 20, works at her booth selling Avon products at a Grameen America open house at St. John's University in New York April 18, 2009. Originally begun in Bangladesh, the nonprofit microfinance organization has 600 borrowers in Queens, all women, with average loans of $2,200 with a repayment rate of 99.6 percent.

In this research 32 pregnant women aged between 18-39 years were studied during their 28th week of pregnancy. All of them were native English speakers and expected their first baby. Data suggests 68 percent of them were white, 28 percent were black and 4 percent were of other race or ethnicity.

From 28 to 34 weeks of pregnancy, all soon to be mothers were asked to read out a passage or nursery rhyme loudly twice a day and this activity was followed by testing at 28, 32, 33 and 34 weeks’ gestation. In order to find out if the fetus could remember the pattern of speech at 34 weeks of age, every mother was requested to stop reading the passage. After that the fetuses were further tested again at 36 and 38 weeks’ gestational age.

For testing a fetal heart monitor was used to record heart rate and identify any changes. Scientist interpreted “a small heart rate deceleration in the fetus as an indicator of learning or familiarity with a stimulus.”

Then the fetuses were made to hear a recording of the same rhyme their mother had been reciting at home or a completely different one and this time it was done by a female outsider.

It was observed that the heart rates of the fetuses who listened to a stranger reading the known rhyme slowed down while the heart rates of those who were made to hear the stranger reading a different rhyme essentially stayed the same.

“According to University of Florida News, this study helped us understand more about how early a fetus could learn a passage of speech and whether the passage could be remembered weeks later even without daily exposure to it, Krueger said.”

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(Photo: Reuters / Eric Thayer)
Karen Giral, 20, works at her booth selling Avon products at a Grameen America open house at St. John's University in New York April 18, 2009. Originally begun in Bangladesh, the nonprofit microfinance organization has 600 borrowers in Queens, all women, with average loans of $2,200 with a repayment rate of 99.6 percent.
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