Sleeping babies can hear you’re upset

Jessica Hamzelou

Parents, beware waiting until your baby nods off before arguing over the housework – the sleeping infant will still be listening in.

Declan Murphy and his colleagues at King’s College London used a functional MRI scanner to watch how babies’ brains responded to sounds while they slept. The group used a modified scanner quiet enough to scan 21 infants aged between 3 and 7 months without waking them.

Murphy’s team first compared the babies’ responses to human non-verbal vocalisations – such as coughs and sneezes – and other sounds that the tots would be familiar with, like the sounds produced by a musical toy. They found that different regions of the babies’ brains responded more strongly to the different stimuli in the same way that an adults’ awake brain does.

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