Fetuses in Womb Can Recognize Face-Like Patterns

What is one of the first things that you do when you see a young baby?  You generally make silly faces.  It’s a fact that babies are highly attracted to people’s faces.  But, groundbreaking research is now suggesting that ‘fetuses in the womb’ may also be attracted to faces.  

A study was conducted to determine how fetuses in the third trimester of pregnancy responded to visual stimuli. The research team was led by Vincent M. Reid, a Professor in the International Centre for Language and Communicative Development at Lancaster University.  It was supported by an Economic and Social Research Council Transformative Research Grant

series of red light patterns were shined at the bellies of 39 pregnant women in their trimesters, and at the same time, 4D ultrasound technology was used to track fetus reactions. Although the overall reaction rate to the light patterns was low, researchers found that when they did respond, the fetuses were four times more likely to turn their heads in the womb when the light patterns that resembled that of a human face were shined (three red dots in the form of an upside-down triangle), rather than when the red lights were shined in other light patterns.   

This groundbreaking research has many implications. First, it demonstrates that fetuses have enough light to see and they are visually aware in the womb.  They can distinguish between shapes; but, this does NOT mean that they can recognize the faces of their parents.  It also demonstrates that the brain’s ability to “integrate information across the senses” starts long before one is born.   

This piece of research is one more indicator of what we have always believed… fetuses are aware, conscious beings in the womb.


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