Feeds

Why can't I remember my own birth?

Perhaps we actually can...

Boost IT visibility and business value

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

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.