A 3D image of a child's brain with blocks and a brain, showcasing in utero brain development.

In Utero Brain Development – Music, Language, and Behavior


The brain is a complex organ that allows us to interact with the environment. As your baby develops in utero (i.e., inside the womb), their central nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord, matures.

Neuroscientists divide the brain into several areas, depending on their anatomy and function. For instance, the parietal lobe is responsible for sensation, whereas the occipital lobe – located at the back of your brain – ensures vision. This general structuring of the brain goes even deeper to include areas responsible for language, reading, speech, and more.

In this article, we will cover everything related to the brain development of your baby, including some of the ways to promote this process.

Brain areas responsible for music, language, and social interaction

When your baby hears music, his/her limbic system gets triggered. This complex system includes structures from various brain areas; however, scientists believe it is responsible for memory, emotions, and social interactions.

As for language, there are two main areas that ensure this process:

  • Wernicke’s area – involved in understanding speech sounds
  • Broca’s area – involved in producing speech

While the limbic system may play a partial role in social interactions, the prefrontal cortex dominates this skill.

The table below demonstrates the function of different areas of the brain:



Frontal lobe

Movements, intelligence, behavior, personality

Temporal lobe

Speech, memory, hearing, emotions, behavior

Parietal lobe

Sensations, reading, language

Occipital lobe



Coordination, balance

Brain stem

Breathing, heart rate, swallowing

How do rhythm, tone, beat, and pitch affect brain development

In adults, studies found that listening and playing music optimizes neuroplasticity. This concept refers to the ability of the brain to form connections between neurons. Consequently, various aspects improve, including visual-spatial, linguistic, and mathematical performance, as well as memory, emotional development, and self-esteem.

In utero, different music parameters stimulate the baby’s limbic system, which makes forming new neuronal connections more efficient.

Benefits of eye contact with baby

Nonverbal communication, such as eye contact, helps with the linguistic development of your baby. In fact, eye contact is one of the earliest predictors of language skills.

In one study conducted by the University of Cambridge, researchers found that eye contact syncs the mother’s brainwaves with her baby’s. As a result, learning and communication skills become easier to acquire.

Moreover, one study found that eye contact stimulates the release of oxytocin, which strengthens the mom-baby bond.

How to talk to your baby

  • The first step to talk with your baby is by trying parentese (i.e., baby talk). This will allow your child to follow your eye and mouth movements.
  • Express the activities you are doing in words. For instance, tell them that you are going to prepare a warm bath for them. This will help with learning new words.
  • Singing songs and rhymes also plays a vital role in the development of your baby’s language skills.
  • Read books and stories for them when you have some free time. You should start this activity early on (a few days after giving birth).
  • When your baby starts babbling, give them a chance to express themselves. After a while, they will learn the pattern of a normal conversation.
  • Try naming objects in the room to help them learn new words.

The difference between baby talk versus normal talk

As we just mentioned, parentese or baby talk helps your baby learn language skills at their own pace. Talking too fast wouldn’t allow them to follow the movements of your mouth.

How many languages can you teach a child, and when should you start?

As a general rule of thumb, your baby should be spending around 25–30% of his waking hours to obtain conversational fluency in one language. Therefore, teaching them 3 languages is more than enough – initially, of course.

Teaching your child a new language should start early on. The infant’s brain is quite ripe for new information during the first 3 years.

How do you know what you are doing is effective?

Determining whether the steps you are doing are working or not is usually straightforward. After a few months, your baby will start babbling, which allows you to monitor their progress in the linguistics department.

What kind of toys are best for brain development?

During the first 6 months of life, objects such as rattles, grabbing toys, balls, activity gyms, and board books are excellent for the development of your baby’s brain.

Is there an increased risk of certain disorders such as autism or ADHD with flashing toys or tablet use?

Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that flashing toys or tablet use increases the risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not using digital devices until your baby is 2 years old.

Benefits of pretend play and playing with other kids

As humans, we are social creatures that need interaction with our peers. Pretend play and letting your child play with other kids will aid in developing:

  • Language skills
  • Social skills
  • Problem-solving mindset
  • Self-regulation behavior

How to support building the imagination

Several methods can help with developing your baby’s imagination, including:

  • Talking to your child about the value of imagination
  • Asking thoughtful questions (e.g., I wonder what happens if…)
  • Organizing some time for imaginary thinking and play
  • Reading books about magical worlds and experiences
  • Showing your playful side and imagination

Do specific foods eaten by the mom help a baby’s brain development?

Any food element that boosts brain activity can help your child’s brain development. Essentially, these foods will provide your child’s brain with the nutrients it needs to build new neuronal connections efficiently.

These include:

  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Spinach
  • Cashews and nuts
  • Omega-3 and omega-6 rich foods

Takeaway message

Brain development is one of the most fascinating processes that humans have discovered. What’s more, your baby’s brain develops very rapidly, allowing them to take up the challenges of the world.

Unfortunately, some babies may experience abnormal brain development, which manifests with suboptimal skills.

For tailored medical advice about your child’s brain development, make sure to speak with a pediatrician.

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