Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Functional Connectivities in the Post-Natal Development of Consciousness

Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Functional Connectivities in the Post-Natal Development of Consciousness

Article excerpt

Consciousness requires a sophisticated network of highly interconnected components. Its physical substrate, the thalamo-cortical complex, allows for its basis to be in place between the 24-28th gestational week. Roughly two months later, bi-hemispheric EEG synchrony signals the onset of global neuronal integration. Thus, many of the circuits necessary for consciousness are in place by the 3rd trimester. Now, pre-term infants can survive outside the womb. It is also easier to interact with a preterm infant than with a fetus of the same gestational age in the womb. The notion that the fetus is like a preterm baby disregards the unique uterine environment. Invasive experiments in rat and lamb pups, ultrasound observational studies, and electrical recordings in humans show that 3rd- trimester fetuses are almost always in one of two sleep states, active or quiet, distinguished by different eeg signatures. Fascinating is that the fetus is actively sedated by the low oxygen pressure, the warm and cushioned uterine environment, and a range of neuroinhibitory and sleep-inducing substances produced by the placenta and the fetus itself: adenosine; two steroidal anesthetics, allopregnanolone and pregnanolone; one potent hormone, prostaglandin d2 and others. Objectives: to outline the nature of functional disconnectivities in neonates and how rapid frontal lobe growth and functional connection development is associated with consciousness in early life and its deficits implicit in developmental disorders such as autism. …

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