Do We Actually Remember Being Born?

Do We Actually Remember Being Born?

The subject of birth memory is very controversial among human development scientists. Some authorities argue that people can remember their own birth, the first year after birth, and even pre-birth memories. This is accomplished usually by methods such as “re-birthing,” use of a “primal” therapist, a “dianetics auditor”, hypnosis, dream analysis and deep meditation.

Boris Brott, the Canadian conductor and motivational speaker, claims he discovered he could play certain pieces sight unseen due to the fact that his mother, a professional cellist, had practiced these same pieces over and over during her pregnancy. In conducting a score for the first time, the cello parts would sometimes “jump out at him.” He knew how they went before turning the page of music. Yet other authorities, who dismiss claims such as Brott’s, argue that people cannot remember their own birth since the human brain is too underdeveloped for memory so early. They also contend that such sensory data, even if taken in, are quickly lost as memories because the fetus and newborn have no words to remember these memories by. However, there are problems explaining lost memories of sounds, smells, tastes and other sensations that may be less reliant upon words.

Of the many fascinating studies on the topic of fetus memory, one such study provides evidence that a baby can indeed possess some memory that involves words before birth. Psychologists Anthony DeCasper along with Melanie Spence conducted a very simple experiment. They asked a group of pregnant women to read aloud The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss twice a day during the last 6 weeks of their pregnancy. A few days after birth, the babies were given the opportunity to hear recordings of two stories. One was the familiar Dr. Seuss story. The other was another Dr. Seuss story they had never heard before. Outfitted with earphones and a special nipple that allowed them to switch the story being heard by sucking faster or slower, 10 out of 12 newborns changed their speed of sucking to arrive at the familiar story, thereby rejecting the new story. This suggests that the babies could hear, differentiate between and remember stories. They also preferred the familiar story to the unfamiliar one. In essence, they voted with their mouths.

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