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Science & Technology

When Does Learning Begin?

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Unstoppable Learning.

About Annie Murphy Paul's TED Talk

Science writer Annie Murphy Paul talks about how fetuses in the womb begin taking cues from the outside world, from the lilt of our native language to our favorite foods.

About Annie Murphy Paul

To what extent do the conditions we encounter before birth influence our individual characteristics? It's the question at the center of fetal origins, a relatively new field of research that measures how effects of influences outside the womb during pregnancy can shape the physical, mental and even emotional well-being of the developing baby for the rest of its life.

Learning is one of life's most essential activities, and it begins much earlier than we ever imagined.

Science writer Annie Murphy Paul calls it a gray zone between nature and nurture. Her book Origins is a history and study of this emerging field structured around a personal narrative — Paul was pregnant with her second child at the time. What she finds suggests a far more dynamic nature between mother and fetus than typically acknowledged, and opens up the possibility that the time before birth is as crucial to human development as early childhood.

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