As early as 30 weeks old, unborn babies startled when they heard a low sound, but then became accustomed to it as it was repeated. Getting used to a stimulus and showing no reaction after repetition is called habituation. "Habituation is a form of learning and a form of memory," co-author Dr. Jan Nijhuis of Maastricht University Medical Center in The Netherlands told LiveScience.

Thirty-week-old babies stopped responding to the sound after about 13 repetitions. If another round of stimulation began 10 minutes later, these babies took only a few times to ignore the noise, LiveScience reported. Older babies, about 34 weeks old, remembered the sound up to four weeks later.

Unborn babies younger than 30 weeks did not show evidence of memories.

However, Nijhuis said that the type of stimulus used in the study may not be the best one to reach younger unborn children, and further research is needed, according to LiveScience.

"It seems like every day we find out marvelous new things about the development of unborn children," said Randall K. O'Bannon, director of education and research for the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund. "We hope that this latest information helps people realize more clearly that the unborn are members of the human family with amazing capabilities and capacities like these built in from the moment of conception."

Taking ultrasound technology to the next dimension, a design student has developed a new technique to create three-dimensional plaster models of unborn babies that expectant parents can hold and forge an even closer bond with their children.

Brazilian Jorge Lopes, a PhD student at the Royal College of Art, displayed the models in a London exhibition beginning July 27, according to the London Times. "It's amazing to see the faces of the mothers," Lopes told the Times. "They can see the full scale of their baby, really understand the size of it."

Lopes uses a technique called "rapid prototyping," which takes ultrasound and MRI scans of the unborn babies and "prints" them with a plaster powder instead of ink. The plaster builds up, layer by layer, until it creates a perfect 3D replica of the baby.

Two of the models are of Lopes's own son. "It's my son with 13 weeks and almost 16 weeks. We're having a baby in August," Lopes told ABC News. When he held the completed models, "I was crying. Of course, it's--amazing to see. And, you know, you can see the umbilical cord and everything."

An obstetrics clinic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is conducting a trial to use the technology. Testers will include a blind woman, who would actually be able to feel the body and face of her unborn baby, the Times reported.

"Prenatal bonding is really important for postnatal bonding," ultrasound pioneer Stuart Campbell, head of obstetrics and gynecology at King's College London, told ABC News. "To have a model of the child they can carry around with them and feel and touch, to me, must help that process."

Contact: Liz Townsend
Source: NRLC
Publish Date: August 6, 2009
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The IFRL is the largest grassroots pro-life organization in Illinois. A non-profit organization, that serves as the state coordinating body for local pro-life chapters representing thousands of Illinois citizens working to restore respect for all human life in our society. The IFRL is composed of people of different political persuasions, various faiths and diverse economic, social and ethnic backgrounds. Since 1973 the Illinois Federation for Right to Life has been working to end abortion and restore legal protection to those members of the human family who are threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. Diverse though we are, we hold one common belief - that every human being has an inalienable right to life that is precious and must be protected. IFRL is dedicated to restoring the right to life to the unborn, and protection for the disabled and the elderly.   Click here to learn more about the IFRL.


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