Researchers from Durham and Lancaster Universities in the U.K. recently discovered a connection between a baby’s ability to predict its own facial touching and its level of physical and psychological development. The discovery was made possible by 4D imaging technology, which shows 3D ultrasounds in real time. In later stages of gestation, namely in the third trimester, the pre-born child begins to anticipate his own actions by opening his mouth while his hand is traveling towards his face.
In the earlier stage of gestation they saw babies touch the upper part and sides of their heads, although later on they began to touch the the lower, more sensitive, part of their faces and mouths.
By the 36th week the majority of fetuses [sic] were seen opening their mouths before they touched them, which scientists say is a sign that they were anticipating touch.
They added that, in healthy foetuses [sic], sensitivity of the area around their mouths increases as they develop, which could mean they have increased awareness of mouth movement.
Scientists believe that moving in sequence, opening mouths before sucking on a finger or thumb, shows intention is developing in the fetuses [sic].
Scientists have deduced from their observation that there is a sequence of events that indicates a baby’s preparedness for birth, and life outside the womb. The sequence also sheds light on the stage of development of babies who are born prematurely. Brian Francis, a professor from Lancaster University, concluded:
This effect is likely to be evolutionally determined, preparing the child for life outside the womb. Building on these findings, future research could lead to more understanding about how the child is prepared prenatally for life, including their ability to engage with their social environment, regulate stimulation and being ready to take a breast or bottle.
Read more of the Daily Mail story here.