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Listen Up Newlyweds and Mothers: Inside the Womb, the Fetus Hears Music May 21, 2007

Posted by Dr. Rohn Kessler in auditory, children, fetus, infant, music, neurogenesis, neuroscience, parenting, parents.
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The ears of a fetus are fully functional at twenty weeks, but an infant’s brain takes months or years to be fully functional.
Inside the womb the fetus hears sounds like the heartbeat of its mother.

A year after they are born, children recognize and prefer music they were exposed to in the womb.

According to Dr. Livitin, author of This is Your Brain on Music, the process goes something like this:

“You wake up from a deep sleep and open your eyes. The distant regular beating at the periphery of your hearing is still there. You rub your eyes with your hands, but you can’t make out any shapes of forms. Time passes, but how long? Half and hour? One hour?

“Then you hear a different but recognizable sound—an amorphous, moving, wiggly sound with fast beating, a pounding that you can feel in your feet. The sounds start and stop without definition. Gradually building up and dying down, they weave together with no clear beginnings or endings.

“These familiar sounds are comforting, you’ve heard them before. As you listen, you have a vague notion of what will come next, and it does, even as the sounds remain remote and muddled, as though you’re listening underwater.”

A fetus also hears music. A year after they are born, children recognize and prefer music they were exposed to in the womb.

Moreover, young infants seem to prefer fast, upbeat music to slow music.

How do we know this? In one experiment, mothers repeatedly played a certain piece of music (classical, reggae, Top 40 or world beat) during the last 3 months of their pregnancy. After birth, the mothers did not play this particular music for a year. At one year, the infants listened to both the music they heard in the womb and a novel piece of music in two different speakers. They looked longer at the speaker that was playing the music they heard in the womb than the other music.
Moreover, young infants seem to prefer fast, upbeat music to slow music.

Mothers take note: the music you listen to while pregnant does impact your child. So does the music you listen to during years one and two. What happens then?

That’s another story.

Dr. Rohn Kessler, Ed. D.

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