New Study: Babies Form Memories in the Womb

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New scientific research reveals babies can form simple memories while they are still in the womb.
Dutch researchers found that when babies in the womb were exposed to a buzzing sound using a fetal monitor, they reacted. Then, after repeating the sound over and over, the babies apparently felt the sound was safe and no longer reacted --bringing scientists to the conclusion that the babies remembered the noise.

"This is the next step into a better insight in the development of the fetal central nervous system," said study co-author Dr. Jan G. Nijhuis of the Center for Genetics, Reproduction and Child Health in the Netherlands.

To further test the theory, researchers waited a while to see if the babies would still remember the previous experience.

They found that at 30 weeks gestation --around the end of the seventh month of pregnancy-- babies remembered the stimulus for as long as 10 minutes.  A month later --at week 34 of development-- the memory lasted up to four weeks.

The study raised serious questions about what babies might be remembering while in the womb.  It may not be surprising to some that a baby's memory is already working  --at least at some level-- prior to birth.

Nijhuis says the study could be used to determine if fetuses are at risk for underdevelopment or learning disorders.

The report will appear in the July/August issue of Child Development.

*Originally published July 20, 2009

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