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The development of anticipation in the fetus: a longitudinal account of human fetal mouth movements in reaction to and anticipation of touch

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>07/2014
<mark>Journal</mark>Developmental Psychobiology
Issue number5
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)955-963
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date8/10/13
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Background: Research suggests that fetuses open or close their mouth in relation to directed movements (e.g. Myowa-Yamakoshi & Takeshita, 2006) but it is unclear whether mouth opening anticipates the touch or is a reaction to touch, as there has been no analysis so far of 1) the facial area of touch and 2) the sequential ordering of touch and mouth movements. If there is prenatal development of touch we would expect the frequency of fetal mouth opening
immediately preceding the arriving hand at the mouth area to increase with fetal age.
Participants: Fifteen healthy fetuses, 8 girls and 7 boys, underwent four additional 4-D scans at 24, 28, 32 and 36 weeks gestation.
Results: Changes in the frequency of touch for different facial regions indicated a significant decline in touch upper and side part of the face and a significant increase in touching lower and perioral regions of the face with increasing gestational age. Results supporting the hypothesis showed a significant increase in the proportion of anticipatory mouth movements before touching increasing by around 8% with each week of gestational age. Additionally there was a decrease in the proportion of reactive mouth movements decreasing by around 3% for each week of gestational age.

Bibliographic note

This is a post-print of an article published in Developmental Psychobiology, 56 (5), 2014. (c) Wiley.