Friday, July 17, 2009

Unborn Babies Form Memories

Dutch researchers have discovered that unborn babies are able to form and retain memories in the womb, ABC News reports:

In a study of 100 of pregnant women in the Netherlands, researchers say they found evidence that fetuses have short-term memory of sounds by the 30th week of pregnancy, and develop a long-term memory of sound after that.

The researchers documented the memory by watching fetal movements with ultrasound while they played “vibroacoustic” sound to the growing baby. Five of the fetuses in the study did not move in reaction to the sound and were eliminated from the study.

But among the fetuses who did move, researchers repeated the sound until the fetus “habituated” to it and no longer reacted. Doctors let some time pass and then tested the memory of the fetus by playing the sound in intervals to see if the fetus “remembered” or recognized the sound and did not react.

The study found that by 30 weeks of age, a fetus could “remember” a sound for 10 minutes. By the 34th week a fetus may be able to “remember” the sound for four weeks.
The Dutch research is powerful new evidence contradicting the legal fiction that human personhood begins only after birth.

And at the conclusion of the ABC News article, in a segment subtitled “Keeping the Peace in the Womb,” Rahil Briggs, a pediatric psychologist at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, argues, “Beyond ensuring healthy nutrition, research of this type, along with the work of others regarding infant memory should help us understand the importance of a safe, relatively low stress environment during this very sensitive period of development.”

Read it all here.

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