Science & Tech

Speaking to your baby before they're born really can help shape their brain

Speaking to your baby before they're born really can help shape their brain
Baby is practicing ASL with mom
BVIRAL - Over 30 seconds / VideoElephant

According to a new study, babies may be able to understand speech whilst in the womb, explaining why newborns are able to pick up listening and speaking skills with ease.

A team of researchers from the University of Padua in Italy suggested that newborns brains are already attuned to their mother's language, and to the basic rhythms of speech, after observing specific changes in brain patterns in newborns when the babies were exposed to speech

The study - published in Science Advances - involved 33 newborns, aged between one to five days, with French-speaking mothers. The babies were then played audio of the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story in French, in English, and in Spanish.

Researchers noticed that when the French audio was played there were more long-range temporal correlations (brainwaves like to the way we perceive and process speech).

Suggesting right after birth we're able to recognise and absorb language we've been hearing while in the womb.

"These results provide the most compelling evidence to date that language experience already shapes the functional organisation of the infant brain, even before birth," wrote the researchers.

The team also found that these brain oscillations, activated by the French speech, were at a particular frequency associated with the natural rhythms of speech. Perhaps meaning we're ready to start learning how to talk at just a few days old.

"They newborn brain may thus already be in an optimal state for the efficient processing of speech and language, underpinning human infants' unexpected language learning abilities," write the researchers.

"Future neuroimaging studies will be necessary to test whether this learning is similarly accompanies by changes in neural temporal dynamics of the type we observed here for language."

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