We are all familiar with the tale of the mighty Abhimanyu who learned the skills of the war by listening to his father from inside his mother’s womb. Even though we know it is only a story, do you think it is possible to influence the development of the brain of an unborn child by altering the intensity of the sound that can reach the child inside the mother’s belly? Or by changing the taste in music the mother usually listens during pregnancy?
Babies are able to listen and register the sounds that pass through the womb of the mother while they are in utero. A fetus not only can listen to sound but is able to make note of them, actively trying to understand them just like a newborn baby. It has been proved by research that babies are able to retain the sounds they hear while in utero in their memory.
In Finland, a group of researchers at the University of Helsinki carried out a study that has opened gates to a whole new world of scientific possibilities. During the study, a group of expectant mothers was exposed to certain sounds. After they all had given birth to their babies, they were called again for the experiment with their babies. They were made to listen to the same sounds that were played before. Yet, only this time the babies were by their mothers’ side instead of being in the womb. The researchers were stunned to see the results. The babies’ minds reacted to the same sounds when they were inside their mothers’ womb.
The lead author of the research paper that was published by the University of Helsinki was quoted saying, “If we know better how language develops very early, we may one day be able to develop interventions for babies with abnormal development”. Babies were made to listen to the sounds like ‘tatata’ or ‘tatota’ in a number of variants by using various pitches. The period was from the 29th week of the pregnancy of the mother up until she gave birth to the baby. Researchers brought back the babies and made them listen to the same sounds along with other babies who were not exposed to these sounds when they were inside the womb. In the results it was found that the sounds generated caused a strong reaction in the brains of the baby who had heard the sound before as compared to the babies who were not exposed to the sound while they were in utero.
Although this was a single and relatively small study that was carried out on a really small group of mothers, it still concludes that the babies can comprehend the sounds that they hear while they are inside the womb of their mother. This study has raised several questions in the medical field: can hearing of a certain sound have a positive or a negative effect on the brain development of a child? Is it possible to start to develop the child’s language while he or she is still in the womb? Can exposing the fetus to certain sounds help in avoiding mental illnesses such as schizophrenia?
Several studies have been carried out for studying the effect of sound waves on the development of plants. In a study, two plant seeds from the same parent plant were kept in different rooms. They were provided access to the same amount of water, sunlight, air, and soil. The only difference being was the music that was played for an hour daily to one of the samples and not to the other. It was found that the plant that was exposed to music grew at a rate accelerated by 72 percent in biomass and 20 percent in height.
If music can have such a profound effect on plants that can only feel the vibrations generated by the sound waves and not actually listen to them, we can only leave it to our imagination the impression that sounds can have on the development of a baby’s brain. So ladies, next time you feel conscious while striking a tune, remember that there is someone listening to everything!