BackgroundAuditory steady-state responses (ASSRs) are ongoing evoked brain responses to continuous auditory stimuli that play a role for auditory processing of complex sounds and speech perception. Transient auditory event-related responses (AERRs) have previously been recorded using fetal magnetoencephalography (fMEG) but involve different neurological pathways. Previous studies in children and adults demonstrated that the cortical components of the ASSR are significantly affected by state of consciousness and by maturational changes in neonates and young infants. To our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate ASSRs in human fetuses.Methods47 fMEG sessions were conducted with 24 healthy pregnant women in three gestational age groups (30-32 weeks, 33-35 weeks and 36-39 weeks). The stimulation consisted of amplitude-modulated (AM) tones with a duration of one second, a carrier frequency (CF) of 500 Hz and a modulation frequency (MF) of 27 Hz or 42 Hz. Both tones were presented in a random order with equal probability adding up to 80-100 repetitions per tone. The ASSR across trials was quantified by assessing phase synchrony in the cortical signals at the stimulation frequency.Results and conclusionTen out of 47 recordings were excluded due to technical problems or maternal movements. Analysis of the included 37 fetal recordings revealed a statistically significant response for the phase coherence between trials for the MF of 27 Hz but not for 42 Hz. An exploratory subgroup analysis moreover suggested an advantage in detectability for fetal behavioral state 2F (active asleep) compared to 1F (quiet asleep) detected using fetal heart rate. In conclusion, this pilot study is the first description of a method to detect human ASSRs in fetuses. The findings warrant further investigations of the developing fetal brain.