Babies Learn Touch in the Womb, Study Finds; Babies Learn to Anticipate Touch in the Womb at 25 Weeks, above, and 32 Weeks, Below

The Journal (Newcastle, England), October 8, 2013 | Go to article overview

Babies Learn Touch in the Womb, Study Finds; Babies Learn to Anticipate Touch in the Womb at 25 Weeks, above, and 32 Weeks, Below


Byline: Patrick Joseph Reporter jnl.newsdesk@ncjmedia.co.uk

BABIES learn how to anticipate touch while still in the womb, according to new research.

Psychologists from universities in Durham and Lancaster found that foetuses were able to predict, rather than simply react to, their own hand movements towards their mouths as they entered the later stages of gestation.

Researchers said the latest findings could improve understanding about babies, especially those born prematurely, their readiness to interact socially and their ability to calm themselves by sucking on their thumb or fingers.

They said the results could also be a potential indicator of how prepared babies are for feeding.

Lead author Dr Nadja Reissland, from the department of psychology at Durham University, said: "Increased touching of the lower part of the face and mouth in foetuses could be an indicator of brain development necessary for healthy development, including preparedness for social interaction, self-soothing and feeding.

"What we have observed are sequential events, which show maturation in the development of foetuses, which is the basis for life after birth.

"The findings could provide more information about when babies are ready to engage with their environment, especially if born prematurely."

The researchers carried out a total of 60 scans of 15 healthy foetuses at monthly intervals between 24 weeks' and 36 weeks' gestation. They used 4D imaging to create scans of life inside the womb.

The findings, published in the journal Developmental Psychobiology, involved eight girls and seven boys.

The researchers said they noticed no difference in behaviour between boys and girls taking part in the study.

Fetuses in the earlier stage of gestation more frequently touched the upper part and sides of their heads.

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