Fetal and Newborn Auditory Processing of the Mother's and Father's Voice
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Term fetuses show differential heart rate responses to their mother’s vs. a female stranger’s voice and newborns show a preference for their mother’s vs. a female stranger’s voice, indicating recognition/learning of the mother’s voice before birth. However, fetal response to the father’s voice is unknown and was examined in this study. Forty mother-fetal pairs and the fathers participated. Parents were audio recorded reading a story. Each fetus was presented with the recordings using the following 3 min periods: pre-voice no-sound, voice (mother or father, counterbalanced over subjects), post-voice no-sound. Following a 20 min delay, the opposite voice was delivered. Voices were presented about 10 cm above the maternal abdomen at an average of 95 dB A; heart rate and body movements were recorded continuously. After delivery, newborn head-turning to three, 20 s trials of each parent’s voice (counter balanced over subjects) delivered at an average of 80 dB A was observed. Results showed that fetuses responded to the mother’s and father’s voices, demonstrating a heart rate increase to both voices compared to no heart rate change during the pre-voice baseline period. Fetuses showed no heart rate response to their mother reading a story but showed a heart rate increase when her audio recording was played. After birth, as newborns, they turned their heads more often towards their mother’s voice and away from their father’s voice. It was concluded that both the mother’s and father’s voice can capture and sustain the fetuses’ attention and that newborns prefer their mother’s vs. their father’s voice.