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Open AccessArticle

Sleep, Little Baby: The Calming Effects of Prenatal Speech Exposure on Newborns’ Sleep and Heartrate

by Adelheid Lang 1,2,*, Renata del Giudice 1,2,3,4 and Manuel Schabus 1,2
1
Department of Psychology, Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience (CCNS), University of Salzburg, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
2
Laboratory for Sleep, Cognition and Consciousness Research, University of Salzburg, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
3
Department of Mental Health, University of Milan, 20142 Milan, Italy
4
San Paolo University Hospital, ASST Santi Paolo e Carlo, 20142 Milan, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(8), 511; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10080511
Received: 26 June 2020 / Revised: 27 July 2020 / Accepted: 30 July 2020 / Published: 2 August 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Quantitative EEG and Cognitive Neuroscience)
In a pilot study, 34 fetuses were stimulated daily with a maternal spoken nursery rhyme from week 34 of gestation onward and re-exposed two and five weeks after birth to this familiar, as well as to an unfamiliar rhyme, both spoken with the maternal and an unfamiliar female voice. During auditory stimulation, newborns were continuously monitored with polysomnography using video-monitored hdEEG. Afterward, changes in sleep–wake-state proportions during familiar and unfamiliar voice stimulation were analyzed. Our preliminary results demonstrate a general calming effect of auditory stimulation exclusively in infants who were prenatally “familiarized” with a spoken nursery rhyme, as evidenced by less waking states, more time spent in quiet (deep) sleep, and lower heartrates. A stimulation naïve group, on the other hand, demonstrated no such effects. Stimulus-specific effects related to the familiarity of the prenatally replayed voice or rhyme were not evident in newborns. Together, these results suggest “fetal learning” at a basic level and point to a familiarization with auditory stimuli prior to birth, which is evident in the first weeks of life in behavioral states and heartrate physiology of the newborn. View Full-Text
Keywords: perinatal memory; fetal learning; quiet sleep; active sleep; fetus; newborn; maternal voice; EEG perinatal memory; fetal learning; quiet sleep; active sleep; fetus; newborn; maternal voice; EEG
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Lang, A.; del Giudice, R.; Schabus, M. Sleep, Little Baby: The Calming Effects of Prenatal Speech Exposure on Newborns’ Sleep and Heartrate. Brain Sci. 2020, 10, 511.

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