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Babies learn words before birth

Brain responses suggest infants can distinguish distinct sounds from altered versions

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3:54pm, August 26, 2013

Parents-to-be better watch their language. Babies can hear specific words in the womb and remember them in the days after birth, a new study reports. The results add to the understanding of how the early acoustical environment shapes the developing brain.

Earlier studies have found that fetuses can hear and learn certain sounds. Nursery rhymes, vowel sounds and mothers’ voices can all influence a developing baby. But the new study, published August 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that a fetus can detect and remember discrete words, says study coauthor Eino Partanen of the University of Helsinki. “The fetal learning capabilities are much more specific than we thought,” he says.

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