The Earliest Fetal Memory?

But that difference only piques the interest of some neurologists who are looking at how memories form in the human brain from the first moments in life through the later stages of dementia.

"It's interesting to say that babies have some memory, some intake of things, even if they're born premature. There's a lot of movement towards making intensive care units friendlier, controlling noise for example, for premature babies," said Dr. Paul Graham Fisher, a professor of neurology at Stanford University.

"Early kids can lie down memories, but what's going to be the really cool thing is how do they do it," he said. "How do stem cells, the very early cells in the brain, encrypt memory in the brain?"

Keeping the Peace in the Womb

While researchers strive to figure out the mechanics of memory, child development experts say studies like these may encourage parents to keep the earliest of environments in mind.

"Beyond ensuring healthy nutrition, research of this type, along with the work of others regarding infant memory should help us understand the importance of a safe, relatively low stress environment during this very sensitive period of development," said Rahil Briggs, a pediatric psychologist at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

"It really is as if there is a recorder going on in there from the beginning, and we've got to be careful about what it's recording," she said.

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