Audio lessons for fetuses

Soon babies will bawl in French. Or perhaps they will bawl in Raag Malhar.

The Washington Post had this recent article about women giving “audio lessons” to their babies so they could recognize patterns and sounds. I’m sorry, did I say babies? I meant fetuses.

That’s right, so now you have devices that can teach your unborn baby. The curriculum seems to involve “sound recognition”, although I’m not sure what that means. Do the women tell their fetuses “kick twice if you think this is Mozart’s 25th Symphony” ?

Apparently, fetuses can start hearing at 18 weeks. So they have about 22 weeks to get a crash course in music or French, or high-sounding corporate jargon (you think that’ll be most useful, right?).

The ultimate record holder in this category continues to be Abhimanyu, but you can see he will soon have competition.

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32 thoughts on “Audio lessons for fetuses

  1. Oh, I mentioned Abhimanyu in my reply to your Tweet 🙂
    This is too much! mothers will start teaching kids that early in life. We might have a board exam for fetuses in India soon.

  2. To be fair, the devices are the con-job in this whole thing, not the idea itself. The interesting differences between how persons have been nurtured from conception onwards and how their skills with maths, language and music etc develop as they get older become apparent if one has had the chance to observe. Alas, writing about it in pointed terms could lead to loss of friends 😉 who will take it all as a commentary on their parenting rather than genuine scientific curiosity. So, schtum is the word.

      • “But who can say that some of intelligence is not inherently genetic ?”

        Nature and nurture do not lie at two ends of some continuum. They are linked inextricably. Indeed, the likelihood is greater that an intelligent parent (also supplying some of the intelligence genes) will research and opt for nurturing strategies that are likely to give his or her child an advantage. Which is not to say that an unintelligent parent cannot adopt such strategies but he or she is unlikely to have started the child at a genetic disadvantage. Then there is the case of a recessive gene or six. Which is why I said that no innocent comment on nurture will go unpunished by a parent who also happens to be a friend. C’est la vie.

        PS: Not just anxiety, I know compulsive cushion-fluffing is genetic too. 🙂

      • Not just anxiety, I know compulsive cushion-fluffing is genetic too. 🙂
        And, in your case, adding peas to any dish that takes it – I remember 🙂
        Great, now I can blame all my OCDs on my genes 😀

  3. One piece of anecdotal evidence:
    When I was pregnant (under 10 weeks), I went to see Jurassic Park at the cinema theater, and remember feeling very uneasy in the stomach when the dino-roars started (with the then-newfangled Dolby surround sound).
    My kid was the hugest fan of Jurassic Park at the age of 18 months when he first watched it on a video. He wanted to see it repetitively. So that’s evidence in favor, without the benefit of the Babyplus or Lullabelly etc.
    Another:
    On the other hand, my aunt persuaded me to sing the same song at the same time, when all else was quiet, to my pregnant belly when I was having my second kid, as a sort of informal experiment.
    My kid has no special affinity to that particular song at all.
    So using the Babyplus could possibly put the baby off the type of music being piped in, for all we know. Maybe the kid who was exposed to the overdose of Mozart will go on to dig the Rolling Stones, instead.

    • That is very interesting. So was your uneasiness because the baby was jumping up and down in joy? 😛 But point taken – who knows whether the baby’s musical tastes are, or whether you are merely annoying the baby? (For that matter, even the 1st kid liking Jurassic Park could be pure coincidence – maybe he’d have liked it very much anyway. I mean, who knows?)

      • Not jumping in joy, at that stage, more likely loop-de-loops. As for loving dino-roars at 18 months, most toddlers that age would run screaming for their mommies. My kid, on the other hand, decided to try and lick the TV 😉
        The downside is I think the ears form much later than the 10th week, so it may not have been the ‘fetal Mozart effect’ after all 😛

  4. “The ultimate record holder in this category continues to be Abhimanyu” This totally cracked me up! 🙂
    I’m surprised not because someone actually thought of this con, but because people are actually falling for it!

    • Mothers are an easy touch for such devices – you can expect they’ll do anything to give their kids an edge.

      On another note, maybe they are thinking – what are my choices? Buy this device and get a genius baby? Or supervise homework every day for the next 12 yrs? I’ll buy it !! 😉

  5. Coaching classes would start much before 18 weeks and the fetuses will stress out with all the gyaan and pressure and start kicking more. Ah, makes sense now.
    Just hope this news doesn’t reach an Indian(esp south indian) family else they’ll start a bit too early and be too obsessed by this audio lesson course 🙂

    • And there will be the inevitable discussions – “My baby is doing so well! He/ she kicked me twice when I was listening to M S Subbulakshmi. I can see he/ she loves carnatic music!”
      “Just kicked you, that’s it? My baby kicks me in tune with the taal!”

  6. Nothing about this article surprises me. Yet, in the years to come, many of these parents will think nothing of feeding these precious kids junk food and allowing them to watch hours of television!
    Sorry, but I completely missed the Abhimanyu reference! Could you please help turn this tube-light on?

    • You are right, I wouldn’t be surprised either if that happens 😦
      On Abhimanyu – I’m sure you figured it out long back but for the sake of others who may come across this post –
      I was referring to Arjuna’s son in the Mahabharata who learned about how to enter the Chakra Vyuh(am) as a fetus, but didn’t learn how to exit it.

      • Oh. Of course. Thanks for clarifying. I kept thinking there was an Abhimanyu mentioned in the article, which I kept missing despite repeatedly scanning it! Stupid me!

  7. Hi,

    Came across this article and comments; I feel a lot of aspects to this science is being missed out and there are some really unnecessary comments being made without understanding the actual facts. As they say, half knowledge is worse than ignorance.

    Firstly, the Washington Post article is about products by certain corporates which the author feels are trying to make money by selling a new concept in US. In her limited capacity she has concluded on that however that might not be the actual truth.

    The concept of talking, singing to the fetuses has existed in India since eternity. Mahabharat is not the only place which talks about Fetuses ability to listen in the womb, even some of our veda’s talk about this. Atharvaveda & Yajurveda have specific mantra’s for the baby. Dr. Fritjof Capra has proven these literature scientifically for those who believe only in science (please refer to his book Tao of Physics). The “Goad Bharai” – a 7th month hindu function (baby shower) performed in most cultures is also more about some mantra’s being chanted to the baby which prepares it for it final journey to the world. Times Music has a whole series of CDs called Garbh Sanskar, Garbh Raksha and so on (more than 50 products). These are collections of mantra’s and music which simulate the baby’s brain.

    It has being scientifically proven that music has its affect on a person’s mood, as it simulates the brain to produce certain enzymes in the body. Music therapy is a popular alternative healing method used today to cure serious disorders as well.

    We all know that the physical, psychological and spiritual health of the parents is directly responsible for the health of a child. Everything the mother is exposed to during the pregnancy directly affects the child be it pollution, smoke, alcohol, food and so on. Similarly, every sound that the baby hears in the womb will shape its personality. If it hears only negative things it may develop a pessimistic personality.

    Mozart and Beethoven are being recommended by some docs in the west and even here in India to simulate the brain for creativity and intellect. Veena is specially recommended to calm the baby in the womb.

    The idea is not to teach the baby in the womb, but to provide positive simulation to the brain and ensure an overall developed personality.

    • Thanks for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment on this. I appreciate the long and detailed refutal in particular, because you have brought out the exact argument that many people would be making – i.e. “This is all in the vedas.”

      You have mentioned the Atharva and Yajur Vedas. Here is the link to the Atharva veda (searchable text, in English). Here is the link to the Yajur Veda (also searchable text, in English). Please tell me where in these vedas is there any mention of fetuses being able to acquire knowledge in the womb. I have searched, and I couldn’t find any reference, but doubtless you know?

      • Sorry, I have only the Sanskrit shlok; refer to the following in the original texts:
        Atharvaveda (19/60-63): Aum Vangma asannasoh…. Uta shudra uta aarya.
        Yajurveda (36/24): Tachchakshurdevahitam purastat… Aum Shantih shantih shantih. (I hope I have spelt these right)

        Apart from these there are chants to prevent miscarriage by simulating the brain of the foetus towards positives of life and also there are chants for easy parturition.

        Reference to Vedas was just to point out that – “concept of talking, singing to the fetuses has existed in India since eternity”

        Just clarifying again, it’s not about learning in the womb but simply simulating the baby’s brain with certain sounds to create a positive approach to life and ensure an overall developed personality.

      • I’d appreciate it if you could quote the entire Sanskrit text and translation – surely that would help make your point?

        The Atharva veda is full of hymns for begetting a male child, charms for expectant mothers (no doubt to guard against miscarriages) and so on. You’re right there, but that’s not what this post is about. Nor is it about trying to prove that women talk to their foetuses – I’m sure most do; we don’t need to quote vedas for that. (Nor does such talking make us all geniuses).

        But if you can find a specific shloka that refers to teaching foetuses in the womb, I’d be very interested.

        I’m also very interested in this quote of yours – “Similarly, every sound that the baby hears in the womb will shape its personality. If it hears only negative things it may develop a pessimistic personality.” I’d appreciate knowing about any paper or shloka which talks about this.

  8. lekhni,
    I’d say the ultimate record holder credit should go to the Sage Ashtavakra.
    Abhimanyu – Did not graduate, Prahlada – Graduated , Ashtavakra learnt the vedas while still in his mother’s womb [yes yes those same Theory of Everything books 😉 ] pointed out errors in his father’s rendition and the enraged dad cursed him to be born with 8-bends in his body.

    • Thanks for stopping by, and you are absolutely right! Ashtavakra it is. I had completely forgotten him.

      Wikipedia tells the story but leaves out the happy ending where Ashtavakra bathes in the river and all his bends are removed. Of course, my knowledge of Ashtavakra comes not from any sacred text but from.. er, Amar Chitra Katha, so I could be mistaken about the ending 😦

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