Fetuses may be able to distinguish between languages, new report finds

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A new report from the University of Kansas has revealed the fetuses may have a more in depth intelligence than once believed. In a series of tests, fetuses were seen being able to distinguish differences between languages.


Fetuses may be able to hear and differentiate between languages, a new study from the University of Kansas found. Researchers say changes in the fetuses heart rhythm made the differences clear. The report also said that fetuses may even be able to start learning language while they're in the womb.

In the study, a single bilingual speaker made two recordings, one in English and one in Japanese. The recordings were then played to the fetuses of two dozen pregnant women. English and Japanese are provide a helpful case study in language contrast because they are thought to be rhythmically distinct.

With a device called a magnetocardiogram, researchers were able to see that fetal heart rates changed when fetuses heard the recording of the unfamiliar language (Japanese) after hearing the recording of the familiar language (English). The heart rates did not change when the familiar English recordings were played back to back.

"These results suggest that language development may indeed start in utero," linguistics professor and lead researcher Utako Minai said in a statement. The study was published this week in the journal NeuroReport.

According to experts at Mayo Clinic, the sense of hearing begins developing in the second trimester, starting at about 18 weeks of gestation. The fetus is exposed to a multitude of sounds in the womb: the rumble of the mother's gut, her heartbeat and voice, as well as external noises.

"It's muffled, like the adults talking in a 'Peanuts' cartoon," Minai said to describe how sounds reach the womb.

This is not the first research of it's kind. However, this instnace is unique in the sense that it's the first time the magnetocardiogram machine has been used, which is believed to be far more accurate than its predecessors.

"Measurements of fetal learning and cognitive development are devilishly difficult to do well," Moon told CBS News via email, adding that the study is bolstered by the fact that it was led by a linguist.
"This sort of basic research into very early learning and cognition can help in creating therapies for atypical development during a period when the brain is unusually open to change," Moon said. 

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Political Outsource | Connect With The World: Fetuses may be able to distinguish between languages, new report finds
Fetuses may be able to distinguish between languages, new report finds
A new report from the University of Kansas has revealed the fetuses may have a more in depth intelligence than once believed. In a series of tests, fetuses were seen being able to distinguish differences between languages.
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