Shakespeare once wrote, “If music be the food of love, play on,” and that quote still applies today. A study run by the Institut Marqués in Barcelona, Spain not only shows that fetuses can hear from week 16, 10 weeks earlier than previously thought, it also proves they respond to music in the womb.
New research by the Spanish institute shows that babies can hear and respond to music, played via what could be called a “musical tampon” in the mother’s vagina. The institute has produced amazing 3D images of the fetuses, showing them opening and closing their mouths and sticking out their tongues in response to the musical input.
When the institute unveiled the results of the study (in Spanish), carried out on 100 pregnant women, the announcement said the babies clearly responded to music in the womb.
“The fetuses responded to the music by moving their mouths and their tongues as if they wanted to speak or sing.”
As reported in the Local, previous research run by the institute caused scientists to believe the auditory system in a fetus does not start working until at least the 26th week of pregnancy. By testing using the new system, however, they have discovered that the fetuses can hear from week 16 and using the new system, the sound reaches them effectively and distortion-free.
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While it might sound trivial, playing music to an unborn fetus, the research into fetuses listening to music in the womb is important for several reasons. It could aid in the diagnosis of various conditions in the child, including deafness and also allows pregnant women to verify fetal well-being.
The results of the study will also help to improve ultrasound scans, due to the movement of the fetus brought on by hearing the music in the womb. It also helps the fetus respond to the sound of music with movements of vocalization – a prelude to singing and speaking.
The statement on the institute’s website says, “Our study suggests that music induces a response that activates brain circuits, stimulating language and communication.”
“It proves that learning begins in the womb.”
However, the study also said that if they played music externally, next to the mother’s abdomen, “the fetus does not perceive it in the same way.” Reportedly a fetus can hear his or her mother talking, hear her heartbeat and even the sound of her heels clicking as she walks on the floor, but those sounds are only heard as a murmur, distorted by the stomach wall.
By playing the music in the womb using a Babypod (the previously mentioned “musical tampon”) the child can clearly hear and respond to it.
Reportedly the Babypods retail for around €150 ($170) and expectant mothers are recommended to only use them for approximately 20 minutes a day to expose their unborn child to music in the womb.
The results of the study can be seen in the video below, where the fetuses respond to Bach’s Partita in A minor for solo flute. Who knows, maybe this will also give the child a taste for classical music in the womb, rather than Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus.
The study of fetuses responding to music in the womb has been published in the journal “Ultrasound” by the British Medical Ultrasound Society (BMUS), under the heading “Fetal facial expression in response to intravaginal music emission.”
Using the role of music in fetal development is nothing new to the Institut Marqués, however. Back in July this year the Inquisitr reported on how Spanish singer-songwriter Antonio Orozco, visited the center to play music to 380 embryos, intended for in vitro fertilization. The session supports the institute’s research into how music plays an important role in the development of both embryos and fetuses.
[Image: Screengrab from YouTube video – Ultrasound scan courtesy Institut Marqués]