Join the mailing list. Enter your e-mail.


Maternal Fright & Might

Propensity for Music and Song in Utero

Connecting in Utero development to music and biological Microchimerism, a fetal and material biological rhythm, shows the intricate the mother and bond.

When I research materials on this possible connection to the origin of music and where it commences for infants in hopes of finding information on the fetus, I am met with a plethora of language development studies. One thing is evident, the fetal brain and the neurological developmental stages are in its infancy in terms of research and discovery. In 1938, the book Psychology of Music reported on the inter-relationships between mental operations and the performance of music starting an embryonic foray into fetal development and the uterine environment(Seashore, 1938). It appears as if a freeze was placed on this research of music and its inter-relationships with our psychological features to that of neurological aspects steering away any possible exploration of the fetus and the uterine environment. As I explored the possible connection of music and the fetus, I did acknowledge an emerging field of fetal neurological study at hand.

Ear for Music and Language

I am not alone in asking where this ear is for music begins and at which stages of development. Studies on musical capacities in infants are asking what the earliest stages of human development are. Do musical capabilities begin in utero? Researchers Wilson and Brown (1997) reexamine the effect of Mozart’s music on spatial task performance to add more studies pointing to musical capacities for not just infants but for the fetus.

Current medical Diagnostic Imaging has been mapping adult human brain and has commenced the study of brain development not just in adolescence and childhood years but the neonatal, premature and fetal imaging (Studholme, C., 2011). The 3D imaging of the developing brain in the fetal brain structure is accumulating a map of fetal brain growth patterns. What is known is a study by Takahashi, E., et. Al (2012) offers the discovery of regional emergence of the fetal brain connectivity that usually proceeds in general from posterodorsal to anteroventral with local variations. Perkins, L., Hughes, E., Srinivasan, L., Allsop, J., Glover, A., Kumar, S., & ... Rutherford, M. (2008), study suggest a cortical subplate evolution between 20 and 35 weeks of gestation. A possible inference from these studies can suggest our auditory sense is a part of fetal development as early as 20 weeks.

All of these studies if we view them in a collaborative vein suggest the fetal brain’s development of our human senses, being primed for nature’s biological language: music. According to a study by Larsen, J. T., & Stastny, B. J. (2011), results are indicating emotional reactions in music located in the bipolar valence dimension of the brain. Emotional responses are mapped as moving easily from pleasant states such as joy and to sad emotional states. The bipolar valence dimension since the 1950’s has been developing a consensual psychometric structure. In doing so, the psychometric measure needs to discover if it is the bipolar (negative/positive) and/or unipolar dimensions (separable). In other words, researchers are asking if positive and negative affects are separable unipolar dimensions or a negative/positive affects – heads or tails; two sides of the same coin. J. T., & Stastny, B. J. (2011).

A study reviewed songs which for purposes of this paper could correlate to the maternal mother, her practices of chants, lullabies and songs (Carroll, 2009). Evidence portrayed that songs are full of not just notes but a methodology of cues that can elicit happiness in the fetal brain as shown with adults with fast tempos and sadness that occurs in minor modalities in the song. More importantly, their study (Larsen, J. T., & Stastny, B. J. 2011) points to pleasant emotional states are a separate experience, and the sad emotional states are in of itself another separate experience.

More compelling is how the fetus is by its presence in her womb are open to the elements of the mother’s rhythms of temperature, food/nutrition, maternal melatonin. It is maternal melatonin which is one of a few hormones that remains in its chemical state without being altered in the blood. This is important since melatonin unaltered state synchronizes the fetus’s rhythms to that of the mother (Serón-Ferré, M., Mendez, N., Abarzua-Catalan, L., Vilches, N., Valenzuela, F. J., Reynolds, H. E., & Torres-Farfan, C. ,2012). By thriving in the uterine environment, the fetus reaches forward to transition into being a thriving newborn.

Since rhythm and the beat of songs and music are similar in patterns for fetal and the mothers circadian has the possibility to evoke emotional states studies as well. I posit that the maternal circadian biological songs-music is essential for the developmental fetal brain functions. Given that the fetus cues from the maternal signals and that entrainment occurs for the circadian system for the fetus which is different from the mothers’ circadian system, conceptually the arrangement of the mother and uterine environment disposes a temporal order during fetal life (Serón-Ferré, 2012). Hailing from four generations of medical doctors, neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinas summarizes the brain and its functions as not reacting to the work but creating the world, similar to the creation of a child (McGowan, 2012).

In this aspect Llinas states, “Music has time, pitch, and so on. If I look inside your head, I find very much the same properties. Maybe music is a built-in language, a type of machine language for the brain (McGowan, 2012, p. 22).

Curiosity leads me to ask how music, the lullabies or songs play a part in fetal brain development and if music is nature’s mother tongue. Just as the brain/blood barrier is impossible to move through except for the fetal brain cells passing easily into the mother’s brain/blood, what we have is a biological metaphor identified as fetal Microchimerism, an extraordinary process found in the uterine environment (Xia-Wei, Hong Liao, Li Sun, et. Al., 2005). This biological Microchimerism, a fetal and material biological rhythm, shows the intricate the mother and bond.

More importantly, this is inherent biologically between the fetus and the uterine environment. Since, the discovery of regional emergence of the fetal brain connectivity and the cortical subplate evolution between 20 and 35 weeks of gestation could this indicate the propensities of song and music for the fetal brain development {Takahashi, E., et. Al, 2012), (Perkins, L., Hughes, E., Srinivasan, L., Allsop, J., Glover, A., Kumar, S., & ... Rutherford, M. , 2008). For instance, it is well known that emotional arousal mood and Mozart Effect by Thompson Schellenberg and Husain (2001) explore the possibility that brain development in infants, if not the fetus are most likely collaborative just as the fetal brain development and maternal biological rhythms are.

Schöpf, V. V., Kasprian, G. G., Brugger, P. C., & Prayer, D. D. (2012) study of the fetal resting states show frequency oscillations for the fetal brain in the bilateral occipital network and medial and lateral prefrontal activity pattern that involved the future Brodmann areas 9-11. What this indicates is that by measuring the fetal resting states, gives permission to identify the biological fetal and maternal rhythms that is present in all phases of developmental brain activities of the fetus and its maternal uterine environment. Viewing the fetal development, maternal uterine environment and that of the mother is predisposed to be all encompassing and extricable interconnected. With monitoring rest states, we can be provided with insights in fetal brain function and its rhythms.

Ertmer, D. J., & Jung, J. (2012), researching thirteen children from 8 months to 35 months results did not show negative impact from deafness in infants from 8 months to 35 months prelinguistic vocal development. I could not ascertain if music or songs, perhaps rhythm in the caretaking environment for the study was noted. The study did not list music or other early vocal development, except for the Stark Assessment of Early Vocal Development for any earlier period of auditory deprivation. What is interesting to note is that prelinguistic vocal development was not stymied. It could indicate the maternal and fetal biological language continues throughout the preverbal stages of infants and toddlers.

The few books for music paired with psychology and what themes I could garner from neurological research have identified correlation the differential role of right versus left hemisphere in regards to music and that of an interplay between preserved language capacities (Schenker 1935: 1979).

It was Verny’s review of research, in particular, David Chamberlain’s Babies Remember Birth, and Elizabeth Noble’s primal Connections that gives way to his agreement that prenates are conscious beings and that behaviors begin in utero (Verny, 1981).

Albertini, J. A. (2012). Review of 'Recording the unimaginable'. Journal Of Deaf Studies And Deaf Education, 17(1), doi:10.1093/deafed/enr042
Carroll, J., M., The psychometrics of bipolar valence activation model of self-reported affect. Retrieved online: Httt://
Ertmer, D. J., & Jung, J. (2012). Prelinguistic vocal development in young cochlear implant recipients and typically developing infants: Year 1 of robust hearing experience. Journal Of Deaf Studies And Deaf Education, 17(1), 116-132. doi:10.1093/deafed/enr021
McGowan, K., (2012). The Brain Song. Discover Magazine Spring, S 2012, p. 16-22.
Xia-Wei, Hong Liao, Li Sun, Masru Okabe, Zhi-Cheng Xiao, Gavin S. Dawe (2005). Fetal Microchimerism in the Maternal Mouse Brain: A Novel Population of Fetal Progenitor or Stem Cells able to Cross the Blood-Brain Barrier. Stem Cells Express August 9, 2005.
Larsen, J. T., & Stastny, B. J. (2011). "It's a bittersweet symphony: Simultaneously mixed emotional responses to music with conflicting cues": Correction to Larsen and Stastny (2011). Emotion, 11(4), 851. doi:10.1037/a0025044
Perkins, L., Hughes, E., Srinivasan, L., Allsop, J., Glover, A., Kumar, S., & ... Rutherford, M. (2008). Exploring cortical subplate evolution using magnetic resonance imaging of the fetal brain. Developmental Neuroscience, 30(1-3), 211-220.
Sachs, O. (2007). Musicophilia: Tales of the Brain and Music. New York: Random House.
Seashore, CE, (1938). The psychology of music. New York, NT: McGraw Hill.
Schenker, H. (1935), (1979). Der freie satz (Translated by Oster E.) New York, NY: Longman; 1979).
Schöpf, V. V., Kasprian, G. G., Brugger, P. C., & Prayer, D. D. (2012). Watching the fetal brain at ‘rest’. International Journal Of Developmental Neuroscience, 30(1), 11-17. doi:10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2011.10.006
Serón-Ferré, M., Mendez, N., Abarzua-Catalan, L., Vilches, N., Valenzuela, F. J., Reynolds, H. E., & ... Torres-Farfan, C. (2012). Circadian rhythms in the fetus. Molecular & Cellular Endocrinology, 349(1), 68-75. doi:10.1016/j.mce.2011.07.039
Studholme, C. (2011). Mapping Fetal Brain Development In Utero Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging: The Big Bang of Brain Mapping. Annual Review Of Biomedical Engineering, 13345-368. doi:10.1146/annurev-bioeng-071910-124654
Takahashi, E., Folkerth, R. D., Galaburda, A. M., & Grant, P. E. (2012). Emerging cerebral connectivity in the human fetal brain: An MR tractography study. Cerebral Cortex, 22(2), 455-464. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhr126
Thompson, W. F., Schellenberg E. G.; Husain, G (2001). Psychological Science. Pp. 12 (3)248-251.
Wilson, T., Brown, T. (1997). Reexamination of the effect of Mozart’s music on spatial task performance. Journal of Psychology. 131 (4), 365.
Verny, T. (1981). The secret life of the unborn child. New York: Simon & Schuster.Zaurov, M. (Ed); Gunther, K. B. (Ed). (2009). Overcoming the past determining Its consequences and finding solutions for the present; Seedorf, Germany: Signum, 344 pages. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.


In accordance with 17 USC 107, material on this website is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. The operators of this website may have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of some of the articles or images presented on this website, nor is this website necessarily endorsed or sponsored by the originators of some of the articles or images. Whenever possible, links to original source material are provided as a convenience to our readers and allow for verification of authenticity. However, as originating source pages are often updated by their originating host sites, the versions posted here may not match the versions our readers view when clicking the links to the original source material.