Learning starts in the womb
the human foetus does have a memory. This recently reported discovery could lead to new tests to identify and find solutions to health problems in the central nervous system of the foetus.
Jan Nijhuis, professor at the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University Hospital in Masstricht, the Netherlands, reports on the basis of his research that babies do have memory and can learn inside the womb.
Nijhuis beamed noise, resembling that of an electric toothbrush, at 25 foetuses between 37 and 40 weeks of age for one second every 30 seconds. Using ultrasound-based equipment, he watched the babies react to the noise. "After a few stimulations, most foetuses stopped reacting, which meant they were habituated," he says. Nijhuis then waited 10 minutes and beamed in the noise again. "The foetus recognised the stimulus and did not react." The tests were repeated after 24 hours. The foetus was habituated more rapidly than in the first test ( The Lancet , Vol 356, No 9237).
According to Nijhuis, this experiment shows that babies have short-term and long-term memory. In cases where the foetal development is not normal, these tests could also be used as diagnostic tools.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.