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The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"Even in the womb babies are listening to music and remembering it"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Babies remember womb music
Carol Cachia and her son James
The study tested the reactions of 11 one-year-olds
Babies can remember sounds they heard in the womb more than a year after birth, a study has found.

The research demonstrated that one-year-old babies recognise music they were exposed to up to three months before birth.

Previously experts thought that babies could only remember anything for a month or two.

Playing baby music
An unborn girl is played music in the womb....
The results of the study by Leicester University are being shown on the BBC's Child Of Our Time programme on Wednesday.

The Child Of Our Time study involved a small group of mothers playing a single piece of music to their babies for the last three months before birth.

The music was chosen by the mother and included classical, pop and reggae.

More than a year later, 11 of the babies were tested and showed a preference for these pieces of music compared with very similar pieces of music they had not heard before.


Dr Alexandra Lamont, from the university's music research group, said this provides new evidence about the influence of nurture in early child development.

Young girl
...and responds to it after birth

"We know the foetus in the womb is able to hear fully only 20 weeks after conception.

"Now we have discovered that babies can remember and prefer music that they heard before they were born over 12 months later."

The baby's preference was shown by the amount of time spent looking towards the source of the music.

Their attention was attracted by flashing lights before the music was played out of a speaker next to the light.

A control group of children tested with the same pieces of music showed no preference for a particular piece.

Pace not style

The babies recognise UB40 just as much as they do Mozart but the pace of the music seems to be influential.

Dr Alexandra Lamont
Dr Lamont said the pace of the music was more important than the style.

"The babies recognise UB40 just as much as they do Mozart but the pace of the music seems to be influential.

"The babies with faster music like Five's If Ya Gettin' Down or the start of Vivaldi's Four Seasons show stronger preferences than the babies with slower music like Mozart's Adagio for Wind."

But Dr Lamont emphasised that there was no evidence that playing classical music to babies helps to make their brains develop.


One woman told the BBC how her daughter had developed a taste for jazz.

"I used to have a daily bath and listen to Ella Fitzgerald at 6pm. It was my peace time.

"When she was born she was very fractious with colic. We used to play Ella Fitzgerald at 3am to try to settle her, and it really worked."

The findings will be explored on BBC1 on Wednesday by Professor Robert Winston in the third episode of Child Of Our Time.

The series is an experiment to find out what makes us who we are.

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See also:

29 Sep 00 | Health
Babies 'can learn' in the womb
20 Aug 99 | Health
Babies listen from the womb
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