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 October 21, 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 October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued new protocols for healthcare workers interacting with Ebola patients. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Tens of thousands of doses of experimental Ebola vaccines could be available for "real-world" testing in West Africa as soon as January as long as they are deemed safe in soon to start trials, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Issues New Ebola Guidelines for Health Workers

CDC Issues New Ebola Guidelines for Health Workers

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set up new guidelines for health workers taking care of patients infected with Ebola. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
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