Babies in the womb are commonly kicking and stretching in the mothers’ belly. While that’s an emotional moment for the parents that feel their unborn baby moving, for the babies, kicking is useful for mapping their body and environment. At least, that is the conclusion of a new study conducted by researchers from the University College London, in the UK.
“Spontaneous movement and consequent feedback from the environment during the early developmental period are known to be necessary for proper brain mapping in animals such as rats. Here we showed that this might be true in humans too” said Lorenzo Fabrizi, a neuroscientist at the University College London.
Scientists came to these conclusions after they monitored the brain activity of 19 newborn babies and revealed that brainwaves related to limb movements during sleep help infants to get aware of their body and surroundings.
Babies In The Womb Use Kicking For Mapping Their Body And Environment
During babies’ rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the scientists, headed by the before-mentioned Lorenzo Fabrizi from the University College London, discovered that activity of the alpha-beta brainwave patterns (responsible for limb movements) is significantly reduced in older infants, while it’s at its maximum in youngest, most premature babies.
“This suggests that movement-related alpha-beta oscillations fulfil a role throughout the equivalent of the third trimester of gestation, which is exhausted at full-term age even when the movements themselves persist,” the study’s report reads.
“It is already routine for infants to be ‘nested’ in their cots, this allows them to ‘feel’ a surface when their limbs kick as if they were still inside the womb. As the movements we observed occur during sleep, our results support other studies which indicate that sleep should be protected in newborns, for example by minimizing the disturbance associated with necessary medical procedures,” Kimberley Whitehead, the study’s first author.