The musical brain is built over time through experience with a multitude of sounds in the auditory environment. However, learning the melodies, timbres, and rhythms unique to the music and language of one's culture begins already within the mother's womb during the third trimester of human development. We review evidence that the intrauterine auditory environment plays a key role in shaping later auditory development and musical preferences. We describe evidence that externally and internally generated sounds influence the developing fetus, and argue that such prenatal auditory experience may set the trajectory for the development of the musical mind.

Early experience lays the foundations for the developing musical
mind. Hearing emerges prior to birth (Sansavini, 1997) and
the acoustic environment in utero begins to shape the auditory
system much earlier than sensory systems that are not exposed
to input until after birth, such as vision. Twenty-five week
old fetuses are equipped with structural components of the
ear that allow them to hear (Cheour-Luhtanen et al., 1996).
Hydrophone recordings reveal that many sounds are measurable
in the intrauterine environment, such as the maternal heartbeat,
breathing, digestion, and the maternal voice (Dunham, 1990).
Even non-maternal speech and song is potentially audible, at or
above 60 dB sound pressure level (SPL) and attenuated above
250–500 Hz (Busnel et al., 1992; Gerhardt and Abrams, 1996).
Fetal heart rate evidence suggests that during the third trimester
fetuses discriminate the speech of their mother from that of
a stranger, speech of their native language from a non-native
language (Kisilevsky et al., 2003; Kisilevsky and Hains, 2009),
and they respond differentially to music and speech (Kisilevsky
et al., 2004; Granier-Deferre et al., 2011). Thus, a wide range of
maternal and non-maternal sounds are available and potentially
audible to the fetus during late pregnancy.
The effects of prenatal auditory experience can be observed
among newborns within only a few hours or days after birth. Soon
after birth, infants show a strong preference for their mother’s
voice over the voice of another female (DeCasper and Fifer, 1980;
Cooper and Aslin, 1989; Kisilevsky et al., 2003), their mother’s
language over a foreign language (Moon et al., 1993, 2012), and
specific passages of speech (DeCasper and Spence, 1986) or music
(Hepper, 1991) presented during the final weeks of pregnancy.
Thus, even prior to birth human listeners may begin to acquire
rudimentary auditory representations that may be considered
as the earliest building blocks of the musical mind. Here, we
examine the nature of the prenatal auditory input and its effects
on auditory preferences, perceptual capacities, and musical skills Country:Italy

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