Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Babies distinguish pain from touch at 35-37 weeks, research finds

Date:
September 8, 2011
Source:
University College London
Summary:
Babies can distinguish painful stimuli as different from general touch from around 35-37 weeks gestation -- just before an infant would normally be born -- according to new research.

New research demonstrates that babies can distinguish painful stimuli as different from general touch from around 35-37 weeks gestation -- just before an infant would normally be born.
Credit: © Dmitry Pichugin / Fotolia

Babies can distinguish painful stimuli as different from general touch from around 35-37 weeks gestation -- just before an infant would normally be born -- according to new research.

Related Articles


In a study published online in the journal Current Biology, scientists show that neural activity in the brain gradually changes from an immature state to a more adult-like state from 35 weeks of development. This change may indicate that neural circuitry allows babies to process pain as a separate sensation from touch.

Dr Rebeccah Slater, UCL Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology, said: "Premature babies who are younger than 35 weeks have similar brain responses when they experience touch or pain. After this time there is a gradual change, rather than a sudden shift, when the brain starts to process the two types of stimuli in a distinct manner."

Scientists looked at the brain activity of 46 babies at the University College Hospital Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Wing. 21 babies in the study were born prematurely, giving scientists the opportunity to measure activity at different stages of human brain development, from babies at just 28 weeks of development through to those born 'full term' at 37 weeks.

Using electroencephalography (EEG), the scientists measured the babies' electrical brain activity when they were undergoing a routine heel lance -- a standard procedure essential to collect blood samples for clinical use.

In the premature babies the EEG recorded a response to the heel lance of non-specific 'neuronal bursts' -- general bursts of electrical activity in the brain. After 35-37 weeks the babies' response changed to localised activity in specific areas of the brain, indicating that they were now perceiving painful stimulation as separate to touch.

Dr Lorenzo Fabrizi, lead author of the paper from UCL Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology, said: "We are asking a fundamental question about human development in this study -- when do babies start to distinguish between sensations? In very young brains all stimulations are followed by 'bursts' of activity, but at a critical time in development babies start to respond with activity specific to the type of stimulation."

Dr Fabrizi added: "Of course, babies cannot tell us how they feel, so it is impossible to know what babies actually experience. We cannot say that before this change in brain activity they don't feel pain."

Previous studies have shown that there is a similar shift from neuronal bursts to evoked potentials in the visual system at this time, suggesting that 35-37 weeks is a time when important neural connections are formed between different parts of the brain.

Dr Slater said: "It is important to understand how the human brain develops so that we can provide the best clinical care for hospitalised infants."

The research was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lorenzo Fabrizi, Rebeccah Slater, Alan Worley, Judith Meek, Stewart Boyd, Sofia Olhede, Maria Fitzgerald. A Shift in Sensory Processing that Enables the Developing Human Brain to Discriminate Touch from Pain. Current Biology, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.08.010

Cite This Page:

University College London. "Babies distinguish pain from touch at 35-37 weeks, research finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908124136.htm>.
University College London. (2011, September 8). Babies distinguish pain from touch at 35-37 weeks, research finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908124136.htm
University College London. "Babies distinguish pain from touch at 35-37 weeks, research finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908124136.htm (accessed March 31, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Solitair Device Aims to Takes Guesswork out of Sun Safety

Solitair Device Aims to Takes Guesswork out of Sun Safety

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 31, 2015) — The Solitair device aims to take the confusion out of how much sunlight we should expose our skin to. Small enough to be worn as a tie or hair clip, it monitors the user&apos;s sun exposure by taking into account their skin pigment, location and schedule. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Soda, Salt and Sugar: The Next Generation of Taxes

Soda, Salt and Sugar: The Next Generation of Taxes

Washington Post (Mar. 30, 2015) — Denisa Livingston, a health advocate for the Dinι Community Advocacy Alliance, and the Post&apos;s Abby Phillip discuss efforts around the country to make unhealthy food choices hurt your wallet as much as your waistline. Video provided by Washington Post
Powered by NewsLook.com
UnitedHealth Buys Catamaran

UnitedHealth Buys Catamaran

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 30, 2015) — The $12.8 billion merger will combine the U.S.&apos; third and fourth largest pharmacy benefit managers. Analysts say smaller PBMs could also merge. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
S. Leone in New Anti-Ebola Lockdown

S. Leone in New Anti-Ebola Lockdown

AFP (Mar. 28, 2015) — Sierra Leone imposed a three-day nationwide lockdown Friday for the second time in six months in a bid to prevent a resurgence of the deadly Ebola virus. Duration: 01:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

More Coverage


When Infants Gain the Capacity for Pain

Sep. 8, 2011 — A new study has for the first time revealed the time in development when infants appear able to tell the difference between pain and basic touch. The researchers, who report their findings online in ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins