Parents might already be choosy with what words they use around their impressionable children, but a new study is showing that a fetus still in the womb might be making memories of sounds as well.
According to research out of the University of Helsinki in Finland, auditory learning starts before birth.
A recent study found neural evidence that babies began learning sounds in the womb before birth. (Image: Shutterstock.com)
"Our findings indicate that prenatal experiences have a remarkable influence on the brain’s auditory discrimination accuracy, which may support, for example, language acquisition during infancy," the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences stated. "Consequently, our results also imply that it might be possible to support early auditory development and potentially compensate for difficulties of genetic nature, such as language impairment or dyslexia."
It is well-known that babies still in the womb experience sound and can respond to it, but this study provides the first neural evidence that these sounds impact human fetal learning.
"We presented variants of words to fetuses; unlike infants with no exposure to these stimuli, the exposed fetuses showed enhanced brain activity (mismatch responses) in response to pitch changes for the trained variants after birth. Furthermore, a significant correlation existed between the amount of prenatal exposure and brain activity, with greater activity being associated with a higher amount of prenatal speech exposure," the study stated.
Just what exactly can be heard in the womb though?
Science magazine reported neuroscientist Eino Partanen, the study's lead author, saying what the fetus hears is muffled, similar to the sound of someone putting their hand over their mouth and speaking.
"You can hear the rhythm of speech, rhythm of music and so on," Partanen said.
Other recent studies have suggested that language learning begins in the womb as well.
But just because babies might begin forming language memories before they are born, does not mean putting headphones a pregnant woman's belly will be cognitively beneficial.
Partanen told Science no evidence suggests anything beyond normal sounds of life will benefit the baby. Science also reported developmental psychologist Christine Moon with Pacific Lutheran University cautioning against overstimulating the developing ear and brain of the fetus, not to mention its sleeping pattern.
Featured image via Shutterstock.com.