New medical reports out of Sweden conclude that babies in utero can understand sounds and retain memories of them after birth. Eino Partanen, a cognitive neuroscientist from the University of Helsinki, and her team of scientists conducted their experiment by giving pregnant women a recording of the fictional word “tatata” — repeated at varying speeds and pitches — to play during their last few months of pregnancy. On average, the article said, the infants heard the word more than 25,000 times by the time they were born. Once hooked up to EEG sensors after birth, in order to monitor the brain for traces of memories, the recording was played again. Neural activity confirmed that the babies who heard the word recognized it. Partanen and her group reported its findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the research was reported Aug. 26 in ScienceNOW, an online affiliate of the journal Science.

“This leads us to believe that the fetus can learn much more detailed information than we previously thought,” Partanen said in the report.

From a faith perspective, the hope is that this report further works to bridge the political gap between “fetuses” inside the womb and infants outside. It’s also a good reminder for parents to start curbing bad language habits well before the birth of their children. After all, it appears it’s never too soon to start modeling patterns of good behavior. You never know who’s listening.