Sciencemag.org: “Be careful what you say around a pregnant woman. As a fetus grows inside a mother’s belly, it can hear sounds from the outside world—and can understand them well enough to retain memories of them after birth, according to new research. It may seem implausible that fetuses can listen to speech within the womb, but the sound-processing parts of their brain become active in the last two trimesters of pregnancy, and sound carries fairly well through the mother’s abdomen. ‘Prenatal babies can hear the rhythm of speech, rhythm of music, and so on,’ says cognitive neuroscientist Eino Partanen of the University of Helsinki. A 1988 study suggested that newborns recognize the theme song from their mother’s favorite soap opera. More recent studies have expanded on the idea of fetal learning, indicating that newborns already familiarized themselves with sounds of their parent’s native language; one showed that American newborns seem to perceive Swedish vowel sounds as unfamiliar. Swedish infants showed the same response to English vowels.”
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