Feeds

Why can't I remember my own birth?

Perhaps we actually can...

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Also in this week's column:

Why can't I remember my own birth?

Asked by Jon Bovard of London, United Kingdom

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 "rebirthing", use of a "primal" therapist, a dianetics "auditor", hypnosis, dream analysis, deep meditation, or one or two other tools.

Canadian conductor Boris Brott once discovered he could play certain pieces sight unseen. 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. He later traced this to the fact that his mother, a professional cellist, had practiced these same pieces over and over during her pregnancy.

Yet other authorities argue that people cannot remember their own birth. They claim that 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 due to the fact that the fetus and newborn have no words to "hang onto" them.

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 this topic, one provides evidence that a baby can indeed possess some memory that involves words before birth.

Psychologists Anthony De Casper and Melanie Spence of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro 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 six weeks of their pregnancy.

A few days after birth, the babies were then 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 let them switch the story heard by sucking faster or slower, 10 out of 12 newborns changed their speed of sucking to arrive at the familiar story, thus rejecting the new story.

This suggests that the babies could hear, differentiate between, and remember stories. They also preferred the familiar one to the unfamiliar one. They didn't exactly "vote with their feet". They voted with their mouths.

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rockin' boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.