Psychologists have shown the first direct evidence that proves babies react differently to various stimuli, like smells and tastes while in the womb by looking at their facial expressions. Here's the dish.
The study was led by Durham’s Fetal Neonatal Research Lab. For the samples, 4D ultrasound scans of 100 pregnant women who had taken either carrot or kale capsules beforehand were used.
Afterward, the researchers looked at how the fetuses reacted.
There are also other studies that have suggested that babies can taste and smell in the womb, however they are based on post-birth outcomes while this latest study is the first to record these reactions before birth.
When fetuses were exposed to the carrot flavour, they showed more “laughter-face” responses while those exposed to the kale flavors showed more “cry-face” responses.
To trigger a reaction, all that was needed was exposure to just a small amount of carrot or kale.
Humans experience flavour via a combination of taste and smell. In fetuses this occurs through inhaling and swallowing the amniotic fluid in the womb.
The discoveries could deepen our understanding of the development of human taste and smell receptors.
The researchers also believe that what pregnant women eat might influence babies’ taste preferences after birth and potentially affect their ability to establish healthy eating habits.
A follow-up study has begun with the same babies post-birth to see if the influence of flavors they experienced in the womb affects how they accept different foods.
It was led by Durham University’s Fetal and Neonatal Research Lab in the Department of Psychology.
The study lead author was postgraduate research student Beyza Ustun working with co-author Professor Nadja Reissland who supervised the research and leads the Fetal and Neonatal Research Lab.
Other institutions who were involved in the study were Aston University, UK, and Université de Bourgogne, France.