Feeds

Why can't I remember my own birth?

Perhaps we actually can...

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
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?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.