Research reveals that infants learn speech patterns in the womb.
Mon, Nov 09, 2009 at 02:10 PM
CUSTOM CRIES: Infants pick up on language in utero, crying to match patterns of mom's native tongue. (Photo: memekode/Flickr)
They say a mother can recognize the cry of her own infant from among a sea of other wailing babies. Recently, researchers have found that these cries are indeed vastly different depending on the native language of the mother. BBC News reports that researchers mapped crying patterns in 60 newborns. The German study looked at babies born to German- and French-speaking women and noticed differences in the crying patterns. Babies born to French mothers "cried with a rising 'accent' while the German babies' cries had a falling inflection," the researchers found.
The research seems to implicate that babies are attempting to bond with their mothers in the womb and that they are strongly influenced by the sounds they hear while in utero, mimicking the speech patterns of their mothers. BBC News indicates that previous research showed human fetuses memorized sounds during the final trimester and that they recognized the contour of "melody in both music and human voices." Lead researcher Kathleen Wermke finds the results dramatic in that our babies can learn and reproduce these patterns and melodies.
Bangor University developmental cognitive neuroscientist Debbie Mills says, "This is really interesting because it suggests that [babies] are producing sounds they have heard in the womb and that means learning and that it is not an innate behavior." Because many infant behaviors are reflexive or innate, the University of Wurzburg study could predict groundbreaking breakthroughs in the field of infant cognitive development.