We’ve known for a long time that a baby can feel its mother’s heartbeat and hear her words in the womb. So parents-to-be are often told to talk and sing to their bumps to improve bonding. But now it’s believed that hearing their mother’s voice in utero also helps a child’s language and hearing.
Researchers carried out tests on 40 premature babies born at 25 to 32 weeks gestation. One group of babies was played three hours of audio recordings of their mum’s voice every day for a month. The other group heard only background hospital noise.
After 30 days, the infants’ brains were scanned using ultrasounds. The babies who’d heard their mum’s voice during the trial had a significantly larger auditory cortex – the part of the brain that processes language.
The Harvard Medical School study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says it may help explain previous findings that babies recognise some elements of language as soon as they are born.
Study leader Dr Amir Lahav says the mums’ voices would have been present in the womb if the babies tested hadn’t been born prematurely. “We theorise that exposure to maternal sounds may provide newborns with the auditory fitness necessary to shape the brain for hearing and language development,” the report says.
Some experts already recommend speaking or singing to babies while pregnant, so they feel attached to mum quickly after birth. The researchers say playing recordings of mum’s voice may also be helpful for the language development of premature babies.
(via Daily Mail)