Monday Movie Series

What Babies Learn in the Womb

I recently watched a very interesting TED talk about when learning begins.  Historically, we may have thought that learning would begin once a child was able to holophrastically or telegraphically speak.  Others may have thought that a child really begins learning after being introduced to the classroom.

However, new research from epidemiology, epigenetics, and economics has shown that learning occurs much earlier than we thought.  A newer field known as “fetal origins” is based on the hypothesis that environmental conditions both before and immediately following birth affect development and wellbeing outcomes from infancy through adulthood.  Effects of fetal origin seem to result in 3 stages: latency, persistency, and genetic programming.  Latency is when the outcomes may not be present until much later in life.  Persistency is when outcomes continue to exist for the individual. Genetic programming is the idea that certain gene expressions have switched on or off due to the prenatal environment.

Annie Murphy Paul is the speaker of this week’s Monday Movie.  She is a mother and author.  She makes some very interesting points throughout her talk.  However, I would like to point out that much of the research pointed out is correlational at this time.  This means that yes, there is a link or relationship between two variables.  For example, she mentions that heart disease and diabetes or pre diabetes were found in those who had been malnourished while in the womb during the World War II in the Netherlands.  Studies like these have not been able to conclude that this was a cause of disease later in life, but it may have contributed to disease later in life.

With this in mind, it’s important for us all to understand that fetal origins research is concerned with providing the optimal environment during prenatal development so that our children can grow as strong and healthy as possible.  It’s important to spread awareness that our environment can affect our babies even though they are protected from so much while still inside their mother’s womb.

[Note: Annie’s talk ends at 16:44]


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