Babies remember music they heard in the womb up to 4 months after they are born


It seems you are never too young to learn. Babies played music while still in the womb remembered the tune months later when part of the big, wide world. And the more they had heard Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, before birth, the stronger their recognition afterwards.

What is more, the effect was visible until at least four months of age. The finding suggests that mothers-to-be who develop a liking for Mozart, Vivaldi or Bach in the hope of boosting the development of their unborn child may not be wasting their time.

Finnish researchers gave 12 pregnant women a CD which and asked them to play it loudly five times a week during the last three months of pregnancy. They were instructed to destroy the CD after giving birth to ensure any memory of the songs came from pregnancy.

Shortly after birth, the babies were played Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, which had been repeated three times on the CD, and their brainwaves measured. Crucially, around one in eight notes of the lullaby had been altered.

A second group of babies that had not be exposed to the song in while in the womb also had their brain activity measured. The brains of those who heard music before birth lit up more on hearing the lullaby - but only to the familiar notes.

The more the song had been played before birth, the greater the child’s recognition of it. It is known that babies can hear outside noises in the womb, although they sound rather muffled.
Previous research has shown that newborns remember words they heard before birth and even seem to recognise the theme tune of their mother’s favourite soap opera.

But this study showed that the memories are stored until they are at least four months old.
Writing in the journal PLoS ONE, the University of Helsinki researchers said exposure to music in the womb may influence a critical period of brain development. They said: ‘These results show that babies are capable of learning at a very young age and that the effects of learning remain apparent in the brain for a long time.’