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Keywords:

  • fetus;
  • newborn;
  • heart rate;
  • head-turning;
  • mother's voice;
  • father's voice;
  • perception

Abstract

Fetal and newborn responding to audio-recordings of their father's versus mother's reading a story were examined. At home, fathers read a different story to the fetus each day for 7 days. Subsequently, in the laboratory, continuous fetal heart rate was recorded during a 9 min protocol, including three, 3 min periods: baseline no-sound, voice (mother or father), postvoice no-sound. Following a 20 min delay, the opposite voice was delivered. Newborn head-turning was observed on 20 s trials: three no-sound, three voice (mother or father), three opposite voice, three no-sound trials with the same segment of each parent's recording. Fetuses showed a heart rate increase to both voices which was sustained over the voice period. Consistent with prior reports, newborns showed a preference for their mother's but not their father's voice. The characteristics of voice stimuli that capture fetal attention and elicit a response are yet to be identified. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 56: 1–11, 2014.