You coo. You rub. You sing “Kiss” by Prince at the top of your lungs. But a new study from Current Biology, a biomedical journal, suggests babies can recognize visual stimuli, as well as sounds and feelings, from within their mama’s growing tummy.
Researchers studied nearly 40 fetuses of women in their third trimester using advanced ultrasound technology. They found that the projection of red face-shaped lights (an upside-down triangle with two lights for eyes and one for a mouth) on the womb caused developing babies to turn their heads toward the stimuli about four times more often than those of non-face-shaped lights. Further, these findings echo earlier research on how newborn babies tend to be drawn to human faces versus other objects.
So what does this mean? Nope, your future son probably can’t tell whether your BFF is wearing lipstick or your hubby’s shaved in the last week (or whether those are two different people entirely). But it is a step in finding out at what stage of development babies can recognize human faces, and our understanding of the point at which bonding with parents begins.