Whether pregnancy is something you have or will ever experience, everyone knows that fetuses tend to kick while in the womb.
It’s a significant thing to catch on camera or share with one’s partner the first few times while sometimes getting quite uncomfortable and even painful at the same time.
However, while baby kicks are nothing out of the ordinary, the reason why this happens has been a mystery for centuries!
A new study seems to have finally found the answer to why this is a thing, and it turns out that these seemingly random fetus movements are really important in the baby’s coordinated sensorimotor system development.
According to this brand new peer-reviewed study that has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, these “spontaneous movements” are a form of exercise meant to train an unborn baby’s body as it develops.
In other words, they do not happen at random at all, like it’s been assumed for such a long time.
The scientist team from the University of Tokyo claims that these in utero movements play a crucial role in the fetus’ normal development, including their hand-eye coordination.
Hoshinori Kanazawa, the lead author of the research explains that “We were surprised how during spontaneous movement, infants’ movements ‘wandered’ and pursued various sensorimotor interactions. We named this phenomenon’ sensorimotor wandering.'”
The average baby kick can amount to an impressive force of over 10 pounds so it’s no wonder that it has been a total mystery for scientists for hundreds of years.
To finally demystify it, motion capture technology was used to record the joint movements of 12 newborns under the age of 10 days.
At the same time, the technique was used to record the joint movements of 10 infants of about 3 months as well.
Then, a musculoskeletal computer model tracked sensory input and muscle activity throughout the body.
What the research team found was that different muscle interaction patterns had developed based on the infants’ random exploratory behavior, later helping them perform sequential movements.
Kanazawa goes on to share that in previous studies, “It’s been commonly assumed that sensorimotor system development typically depends on the occurrence of repeated sensorimotor interactions, which means the more you do the exact same action the more likely you are to learn and to remember it. However, the results implied that infants develop their very own sensorimotor system based on explorational behavior or on curiosity, so they aren’t just repeating the same action but a variety of actions. In addition to this, the findings also provide a conceptual linkage between early spontaneous movements and spontaneous neuronal activity.”