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April 23, 1987
In the Journal's Winter 1986 issue (Volume 1, Number 2), you quite rightly raise concerns about prenatal stimulation employing audio cassette players in close proximity to the in utero infant; this perspective is in keeping with very legitimate doubts expressed in your exceptional Fall 1986 Journal article, "The Psycho-Technology of Pregnancy and Labor" (Volume 1, Number l)-fears I shared when helping edit a popular nursing textbook 20 years ago, The Psychodynamics of Patient Care (Prentice-Hall).
Yet in confronting any risk versus benefit innovation, one must be careful not to throw the baby out with its bassinet: those children receiving prenatal enhancement by sonoral means are so remarkable-in intelligence, skills, and behavior-that the methodology of their advantage deserves improvement, not blanket condemnation. It has been this same awareness which in surveying the rapidly developing discipline led our research to reject the dangerous elements of some approaches while learning from their faults, resulting in prudent technical modifications; these are readily illustrated by answering the six points you listed:
1. By providing progressively sequenced cardiac variants-sounds synthesized electronically from heartbeat by digital sampling device-our Prelearning Program offers neurogenetic stabilization to the in utero infant within identical parameters of operation as maternal blood pulses continuously influencing the womb. Since the conscious brain suppresses natural uterine noise as loud as 95 decibels or it would not respond to outside sounds of lesser volume, it is a telling fact that prenatal rhythmic overstimulation obeying acceptable standards has never been varified in the professional literature; if anything, mothers should worry about uracferstimulation-informational malnourishment.
2. By utilizing either loop tapes or players with automatic-reverse function-even units with manually controlled timing devicesunwelcome noise when a standard cassette ceases can be easily avoided; in any event, static or hissing sounds while irritating to an air-medium listener are almost entirely attenuated by abdominal tissue and fluids, hence arriving in utero comfortably within normative cardiac range.
3. The aforementioned argument obtains for player mechanical difficulties, but can be additionally safeguarded against by clear instructions for the mother to regularly monitor her unit for defects.
4. Virtually all commercial cassette players have a volume limit which with abdominal attenuation falls well below that of normal uterine noise; nonetheless, specially designed units can insure just such a sound-and tone-ceiling, as might transducers specifically intended for use with existing models. Standard gravidae testing by hydrophones has long established acceptable upper as well as lower sound thresholds, parameters factored into any circumspect approach.
5. Because a prenate's cognitive ability almost wholly stems from temporal and tonal patterns imprinted by cardiac rhythms, content-oriented material other than extremely elementary departures from such limited precedent is a contradiction in terms; formative neural structure-dendritic arborization, axonal development, myelination, and synaptic interfacing-responds to those minimal events, repeated over durations sufficient to encode, which supplement genetic organization; a program that elects to present Biblical passages in utero at least can be assured that King James' cadences should positively register-as will those of Dr. Seuss, Leon Thurman's and Anna Peter Langness' Heartsongs, Rene Van de Carr's monosyllables, your and Sandra Collier's Love Chords, and every mother's timely melodies.
6. Radiation originating from the audio cassette player is less than that of a wristwatch and about equivalent to an eighteenth-century stethoscope; better turn off the microwave or television.
We must recognize that short-term external rhythms impinge upon the unborn constantly-from household equipment, radio, or automobile-and that virtually all ordinary room conversation is available prenatally, with some senses (such as cutaneous, vestibular, cochlear, or interoceptive (receptive even during the first trimester in order to code preconsciously-possibly coincidental with formation of the neural tube at three weeks after conception. The challenge now is to fashion an effective curricular concept, based on naturally occurring early cognitive pacemakers, into a safe and usable format for that which we cultural beings do best-education; any conscientious engineer, observing common sense precaution, will try to address the problem with the above concerns firmly in mind and heart. All your worries should be aired whever new technologies arise, just as any scrupulous program involving what might be construed as a medical device must inform the Food and Drug Administration of its activities. In this way, tools can truly serve their makers rather than the reverse. Your scrutiny and advice is well-taken, certainly much appreciated.
Brent Logan, Ph.D., Director
Prenatal and Infant Education Institute
PS-You also draw attention (on pages 173 and 174 of the Journal's Winter issue) to a remark in Susan Ludington's book, How to Have a Smarter Baby, concerning cranial dimension as a product of brain cell population. While this statement might summon the worst of phrenologywith corresponding political abuse-it is the result of a thoroughly respectable study and definitely deserves further investigation; to be charitable, amplified neural structure must have some place to gowhich accounts for our impressive cortical invagination and accommodating pelvic width-placing homo sapiens at the forefront of evolution's brain versus body size achievement.
Of course, another perspective could offer disproportionate cellular dieoff at birth to explain your normative football player, with chess masters (and females) conversely affected; density being all, it may be synaptic contact which ultimately counts ... or is that unusually hardheaded of me?
Dear Dr. Verny,
I recently received the first copy of Pre- and Peri-natal Psychology Journal. The Journal includes an excellent cross-section of thoughtprovoking articles. I would like to wish you and your staff best wishes for success.
Kathleen M. Kalil, Ph.D.
"Hats off, gentlemen, a genius." These were words written by Robert Schumann on first hearing the music of the Polish composer, Frederick Chopin. It is in much the same spirit that we greet the appearance of this new journal, the first issue of which appeared in the fall of 1986.
In our opinion, the appearance of this journal is a major landmark of science, dedicated as it is to the psychological study of periods surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. This study is long overdue and represent, in our estimation, one of the more important frontiers of medical science.
Sometime after the end of World War I, a gradual dissolution of American family ties began, a process which probably reached its peak during the 1960s. It is with sadness that we now recognize that inflexible hospital rules of earlier decades, which governed the labor and delivery rooms, may have inadvertently contributed to this dissolution.
Until very recently, it would be difficult to find any aspect of family life in which natural processes were more thoroughly altered and violated than the process of childbirth in the usual hospital setting. Husbands were separated from their wives. Infants were separated from their mothers immediately following childbirth. According to the writings of Dr. Ashley Montague, this is the one time in their lives when mother and infant have greatest need for each other, in order to establish critical "bonding." This separation at the beginning of life may have set the stage for the highly prevalent family separations on the modern scene.
The present journal, as a voice for talented and dedicated professionals, may go far in establishing guidelines for restoration of strong and healthy family units.
Harold E. Buttram, M.D.