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Things we learn before we are born

Things we learn before we are born

April 6, 2024

It is usually believed that birth is the moment in which our life begins as beings capable of gaining their autonomy. It is easy to think that the social life of the human being has its beginning when there is no physical separation between ourselves and others. When we are able to breathe the same air, see the same things and look into each other's eyes.

All this is very intuitive and it seems natural to be so, but it is not true. Long before leaving our mother's womb we already have the possibility of learn things about the environment in which one day we will live , as demonstrated by multiple experiments.

Perception begins even within the uterus

It is known that we are capable of recognize mother's vocalizations long before birth . This is already an example of learning, since it has to do with knowledge formed through repeated experiences and with a practical purpose (to recognize the person who will take care of us once we are born). In fact, it is recommended that mothers speak to their unborn babies so that from the first moments they have different stimuli and can exercise their different skills. However, this phenomenon is only a sample of the many ways in which experience sizes our behavior during the pregnancy period.


The recognition of sounds is not limited to the voices of nearby people. It can be extended to other day-to-day sounds during the months of pregnancy. For example, there is evidence that unborn babies can recognize in the music of the television series that his mother usually sees.

In addition, babies are able not only to recognize their mother's voice, but also their smell. Interestingly, newborns they prefer the smell of sweat if this is their mothers' . Babies of a few weeks of age react very strongly when they are exposed to the smell of the amniotic fluid in which they have been wrapped. This fact can give an idea on what is the key that allows to recognize the smell of the mother in objects that she leaves.


Beyond the senses of hearing and smell, the touch It also plays a role in learning during pregnancy. A recent investigation whose results have been published in PLoS ONE It shows how fetuses tend to respond to the caresses that the mother performs on her belly by doing something similar to her body. In fact, the babies that were used as a sample responded more intensely to these caresses than to the mother's voice, and they did so by touching their own thorax in a similar way as another person was doing on the other side of the womb. The researchers believe that this is an attempt to communicate with the mother.

The investigations continue

These are some of the conclusions that have been reached experimentally, but it is likely that there are other examples of learning before birth that have not yet been discovered. Together, these investigations show that the maternal womb is an environment as valid as any other to learn , even if we do it without even starting to turn years.


Bibliographic references:

  • Beauchamp, G.K., Katarina, K., Yamazaki, K., Mennella, J.A., Bard, J. and Boyse, E.A. (1995). Evidence suggesting that the odour types of pregnant women are a compound of maternal and fetal types. PNAS, 92, pp. 2617-2621.
  • Hepper, P. G. (1988). Fetal "soap" addiction. The Lancet, 23 (2), pp. 1347-1348.
  • Marx, V. and Nagy, E. (2015). Fetal Behavioral Responses to Maternal Voice and Touch. PLoS ONE, consulted here.

Annie Murphy Paul: What we learn before we're born (April 2024).


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