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19th Apr 2024

Research shows babies know nursery rhymes they heard in the womb

Anna Martin

nursery rhymes

Babies really are amazing, even before they enter the world

Science has proven that singing to your little one is good for developing their language learning skills but it turns out they can understand before they leave the womb.

Austrian researchers have discovered that babies as young as a few weeks old are able to recognise nursery rhymes they heard when they were in their mother’s womb.

Some very smart folks from the University of Salzburg came to this understanding after carrying out an experiment with around 60 pregnant women.

The women had their babies listen to two German nursery rhymes through speakers placed on their abdomens, twice a day from the 34th week of pregnancy.

Two weeks later, they made their big debut into the world. The newborns listened to one of the nursery rhymes they had encountered while in the womb and another they had never heard before.

nursery rhymes
Credit: Canva

Scientists recorded the infants’ brain activity so that they could determine whether the babies could remember which nursery rhyme they had heard before and to what extent they paid attention to them.

The results showed that babies had an easier time following the nursery rhymes they first listened to in the womb.

The researchers found that unfamiliar songs elicited a stronger electrical brain response in babies, suggesting that they put more effort into listening to them.

To further prove that the babies knew the nursery rhymes while in their mother’s wombs, the academics changed the rhythms, p;ayed them backwards and even modified them to remove certain sounds.

It turned out that the infants had to make more effort to follow the altered nursery rhymes than the original ones, suggesting that they are able to differentiate between the recordings.

The authors of this research, published on the pre-publication website bioRxiv, thus conclude that babies can recognise nursery rhymes they heard before they were born.

They seem to be sensitive to patterns of rhythm and sound even when while still in their mother’s womb as if their brains were already equipped to differentiate one sound from another.