Children in the womb have been shown opening their mouths and sticking their tongues out in response to music at only 16 weeks old.
In a new study, nearly 90 per cent of unborn babies moved their heads and limbs when they heard music, while almost half reacted by putting out their tongue.
The researchers in Spain said the findings indicated that learning begins in the womb.
Using a speaker designed specifically for the study, researchers worked with women who were between 14 and 39 weeks of pregnancy.
Playing a piece of J S Bach, and comparing it to vibrations with no accompanying music, the team used ultrasound scans to monitor the unborn children’s responses.
The Institut Marquès said the report showed that from the 16th week of pregnancy the unborn can respond to music “through specific movements of the mouth and tongue”.
Discussing the results, the group said: “87% of fetuses reacted with non-specific head and limb movements, accompanied by specific mouth and tongue movements which stopped when the music stopped.”
It added that, “nearly 50% of fetuses reacted with a striking movement, opening their jaw very wide and sticking out their tongue as far as it would go”.
The researchers commented: “We are aware of and recognise the importance of talking to babies from the moment they are born to promote neurological stimulation. Now we have the amazing opportunity to do this much sooner, which is a huge advance.”
The study was published in Ultrasound, the journal of the British Medical Ultrasound Society.
Last year a woman whose waters broke at 16 weeks spoke about how happy she was that her son survived.
Katy Evans was taken to hospital because she had a rare condition causing the amniotic fluid to drain from her womb. Doctors warned that her son Leo had just a one per cent chance of survival.
They said if Leo did survive birth he may have no limbs or be unable to breathe, and that Katy had a high risk of developing a womb infection.
But Katy and her husband wanted to give their child a chance of survival, and said no to an abortion.
She said: “I could feel my baby kicking. I already loved this little person”.
In September, she said: “We’re all so blessed and grateful to have him. He’s a very special little boy”.