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.

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 July 22, 2014 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 July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Research on plaque from ancient teeth shows that our prehistoric ancestor's had a detailed understanding of plants long before developing agriculture. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Contaminated Water Kills 3 Babies in South African Town

Contaminated Water Kills 3 Babies in South African Town

AFP (July 18, 2014) Contaminated water in South Africa's northwestern town of Bloemhof kills three babies and hospitalises over 500 people. The incident highlights growing fears over water safety in South Africa. Duration: 02:22 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
from the past week

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