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Babies begin to recognize pain right before birth

Posted On: Sept. 14, 2011

Washington, Sept 10 (ANI): Babies can tell the difference between pain and basic touch just before they are born, a new study has shown.

The evidence suggests that developing brain networks become mature enough to identify pain as distinct from touch fairly late in development.

"Babies can distinguish painful stimuli as different from general touch from around 35 to 37 weeks gestation-just before an infant would normally be born," said Lorenzo Fabrizi of University College London.

Infants can't actually tell you whether something hurts or not, so the researchers relied on recordings of brain activity by electroencephalography (EEG).

EEG recordings of infants between the ages of 28 to 45 weeks gestation show that the brain begins to produce distinct responses to a simple touch versus a clinically essential heel lance considered as painful at about 35 to 37 weeks gestation. (Babies' due dates are based on 40 weeks of pregnancy, and babies are generally considered full term at 37 weeks).

The results may have implications for the treatment, care, and development of premature newborns, Fabrizi said, noting that these children can often grow up to be either more or less sensitive to pain than usual.

The study was recently published online in the Cell Press journal Current Biology. (ANI)

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