Mother’s voice plays unique role in developing baby’s brain in the womb

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As we learn more amazing facts about prenatal development, we better understand how a baby’s experiences in the womb shape his or her development.  The abortion industry continues to claim that life begins at birth, a lie that runs counter to the basic facts of biology and human development.  By studying fetal development, Pro-Lifers can better illustrate the undeniable continuity of a person’s life before and after birth.  Furthermore, this continuity is demonstrated by a study of premature babies that shows the crucial role a mother’s voice plays in the development of auditory parts of the brain.

The study, conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, observed the effect of the sound of a mother’s voice and heartbeat on premature babies.  Researchers followed 40 babies who were born extremely prematurely, the classification for babies born between 25 and 32 weeks gestation. Because they were so premature, all of these babies spent a month or more in the neonatal intensive care unit, and while there, their brains were undergoing development that usually takes place during the final stages of a full-term pregnancy.

The babies were randomly assigned to two groups: Researchers played audio recordings of “maternal sounds,” which include the mother’s voice and heartbeat, to one group.  To the control group researchers exposed ambient hospital noise without any audio recordings, which is the norm for standard care of premature infants. Researchers used cranial ultrasound to measure portions of the brain after a month.  They write, “Results show that newborns exposed to maternal sounds had a significantly larger auditory cortex (AC) bilaterally compared with control newborns receiving standard care.”  Although this notable difference in the auditory cortex occurred, other areas of the brain were not significantly different between the two groups, indicating that the mother’s voice had a unique effect on the baby’s development of hearing.

From this research, scientists are beginning to understand how babies’ brains are forming in the important final weeks of gestation.  Armed with that knowledge, medical teams will help newborns complete those cognitive connections when they are born prematurely. Many frazzled parents mention that mimicking the womb environment by rocking and shushing a fussy newborn can work wonders.  The latest research suggests that mimicking the womb can not only calm babies but also assist in brain development for premature babies. The Brigham and Women’s website states that using audio technology in incubators for premature babies to supply recordings of the mother’s voice and heartbeat “is expected to facilitate the formation of frontotemporal neural connections, thereby increasing the potential for normal brain development.”  By recreating aspects of the womb, doctors assist babies who have already been born complete important brain development that is usually done before babies leave the womb.

The significance of supplying the simple sounds of a mother to her child shows the complexity of development in the womb and how much more we have to learn.  Researchers note, “Further studies are needed to better understand the neural processes underlying this early brain plasticity and its functional implications for future hearing and language development.”

Some people might be surprised to know that a baby can hear for much of his or her time in the womb. Actually, babies begin hearing at just 16 weeks gestation and by 25 weeks they are finely attuned to voices and noises from outside the womb.  Another study showed that babies show musical preferences in the womb and even try to “sing” along with their favorite music when played.  Babies in utero develop hearing and also taste, language preference, and an understanding of the environment into which they will be born. From the recent study of babies’ auditory development and the knowledge of fetal development available, we can be certain that learning began in the womb for all of us.

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