Aspects of Fetal Learning and Memory


  • This study was financially supported by the Netherlands Brain Foundation (11F03(2).52). The authors wish to thank all of the women and their babies who participated in this study. They also gratefully acknowledge the contribution of the midwives from the region of South Limburg and the medical staff of the departments of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the hospitals in the same region, especially Mrs. M. Beckers and Mrs. M. Vossen. The authors also like to thank Dr. A. Kester for his statistical advice. None of the other authors had any conflicts of interest.

concerning this article should be sent to Jan G. Nijhuis, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Maastricht University Medical Centre, P.O. Box 5800, 6202 AZ Maastricht, The Netherlands. Electronic mail should be sent to


Ninety-three pregnant women were recruited to assess fetal learning and memory, based on habituation to repeated vibroacoustic stimulation of fetuses of 30–38 weeks gestational age (GA). Each habituation test was repeated 10 min later to estimate the fetal short-term memory. For Groups 30–36, both measurements were replicated in a second session at 38 weeks GA for the assessment of fetal long-term memory. Within the time frame considered, fetal learning appeared GA independent. Furthermore, fetuses were observed to have a short-term (10-min) memory from at least 30 weeks GA onward, which also appeared independent of fetal age. In addition, results indicated that 34-week-old fetuses are able to store information and retrieve it 4 weeks later.