Heymatt: This is a really hard thing for me to believe. My friend says she remembers being born. She says she has dreams about being in a real dark place and then being pushed along some big hallway and coming out into a bright place that is noisy and with lots of people. She says she’s sure she’s remembering being born because she has these dreams. She says she also remembers her first birthday party with a cake and ice cream and presents. I asked her how she could be so sure, and she just said what else can it be? So is it possible that she actually remembers being born? I don’t know anyone else who claims that. And I don’t remember my first birthday. Do you? What’s the deal with my friend? — Trish, El Cajon
I don’t much remember any birthday. We all get so wasted on Grandma’s birthday pie that birthdays are sort of a blank. But that shouldn’t stop your friend from saying she remembers being born and getting first-birthday presents. People also say they’ve been abducted by aliens, and I think that right is also covered by the First Amendment. I don’t mean to say your friend is wound a little tight, but many doctors might.
I guess there must be a lot of other people out there claiming the same things, Trish, because doctors and other science guys have finally broken down and recruited a bunch of pregnant ladies for many studies. Can newborns remember multiplication tables? The effect of AC/DC on the fetal brain. How long does it take a toddler to memorize the Gettysburg Address?
Okay, okay. We’ll get on it. So, is there anything to support your friend’s claims? Yes, but we forget what it is. At least that’s what a baby would say. Infants just can’t remember much for very long. Some simple things sink in at about age two, but even those don’t really go into a long-term memory. Science guys taught babies aged two and under a simple toy-assembly routine. Four months later they rounded up the same crowd of toddlers and presented them with the unassembled toy, and only the two-year-olds remembered what they’d learned. Other studies seem to support this idea about kidlets’ long-term recall. The current theory about why this is true states that young’uns’ frontal cortexes — one area significant in the function of long-term memory — is growing like crazy and getting organized before that time so no real memories are laid down. So, there’s a strike against the first-birthday memory. Third birthday, maybe, but first? Uh-uh.
And that’s some play-by-play of your friend’s day of birth. Sometime someone is going to figure out what that long dark hall and bright noisy room are, because your friend’s not the only one to be hanging around there. But it’s no birth recall, at least as far as doctors are concerned. And that’s despite the fact that they’ve actually proved that a fetus can remember stuff! Including TV-show theme songs! Whew! Amazing to think we start wasting our time even before we’re born! So, how do you test a fetus? you ask. Wiggling and kicking. Like, the science guys strapped some doohickey to pregnant ladies’ bellies and transmitted vibrations and a particular musical tones. Most of the kids got all hinky and clearly reacted to the sound. Do this often enough, and the babies stopped reacting. This, the doctors reasoned, was because they’d remembered the sound and become accustomed to it.
Some luckier kids got to hear nice music before birth. The same song, repeated. So, once the screaming and birthing was over with, that same piece of music would soothe the child and some kids even stopped crying. A handy tip, perhaps, for those expecting. The science guys found that 32 weeks’ gestation is the point at which a fetus’s short-term memory kicks in. Other studies showed that “short-term” means about 3 weeks. Beyond that, the memory seems to fade unless it is continually reinforced.
So there you go, Trish. Not sure how you are going to break this to your friend. Well, she won’t believe you anyway.
Long ago you Alicelanders made it clear that you’re sick — do you hear me? — sick of commercials that blast you out of your chair while you’re trying to enjoy some low-volume drama TV. We’ve chewed over the ins and outs of the problem a couple of times, I think. Anyway, I happen to have tripped over a piece of angry legislation introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by a very cheesed-off Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA). It’s labeled the Commercial Loudness Mitigation Act, and it empowers the FCC to enforce the mitigation of commercial loudness, I guess. The bill is creeping its way through the House, so if you want to give it a kick in the butt, contact your representative and express your outrage that advertisers are up to now allowed to run roughshod over our eardrums. This has been a public service announcement.