Your Brilliant Baby in Week 15: Evidence of Memory

Baby’s Brain in Week 15

Despite your baby’s amazingly short existence so far, his memory is already at work. While he doesn’t remember every event in the day or every person who comes to visit, his memory allows him to recall his primary caregivers and aspects of his environment that surround him daily.

What the Research Shows

Remember last week’s study, in which researchers determined babies knew that their kicks would cause a mobile to move? It’s important to know that before the researchers tied a ribbon to each baby’s foot and then to the mobile overhead, they counted the number of kicks that baby made. By doing so, they determined a baseline for baby’s kicking behavior. (When quiet and alert, all three-month-olds naturally exercise by raising their legs and kicking while on their backs.)

Once the researchers connected each baby’s foot to a mobile overhead with a string, and the babies realized that they could make the mobile move by kicking, it only took these three-month-olds three to six minutes to double or triple their kicking rates. Clearly, these babies had learned what to do to cause this gratifying movement overhead.

Setting up the same situation a week later, the researchers wondered: Would the babies immediately move their feet this time to make the mobile move? Or would they need to relearn how to do so?

With the same mat to lie on, mobile to look at, and coverings on the walls, the babies immediately began to move their legs rapidly. Obviously they remembered that doing so would provide the satisfying movement of the mobile. But when the researchers changed any part of the environment (for example, hung a blanket over the side of the crib), the babies needed to relearn how to make the mobile move, taking the three to six minutes to double or triple the number of kicks, as with the first trial.

This tells us that—as in the familiar environment of home—babies remember and use skills they’ve acquired. Taken out of this context, babies need to relearn these skills.

Week 15 Brain Booster

Let’s say your baby falls to sleep easily in her own crib at home, but now you’re taking her to childcare where the crib environment is far different. If Baby’s routine becomes erratic and she suddenly has difficulty nodding off, be patient: She’ll likely need to relearn how to fall asleep in this new context.

Remembering skills in a particular context is true for older children, as well. Just wait until your toddler has to use a public toilet after experiencing only her own potty!