Hiccups in our infants are often viewed as an annoyance, scientists have discovered they may play a crucial role in helping babies to regulate their breathing.
In a study led by University College London (UCL), researchers monitored “13 newborn babies” and “found that hiccupping triggered a large wave of brain signals which could aid their development.” The study’s senior author Lorenzo Fabrizi said that the observed brain activity might help babies “learn how to monitor the breathing muscles.” The study, which was published in Clinical Neurophysiology, suggests that hiccups “may play a crucial role in our development – by helping babies to regulate their breathing.”
The highlights of the study reveal:
1) Diaphragm contraction in newborns evoked a sequence of three event-related potentials.
2) Hiccups can be encoded by the brain as early as ten weeks prior to average time of birth.
3) Hiccups – frequent in newborns – provide afferent input to the developing brain
The CNN Health Study tested whether diaphragm contraction provides afferent input to the developing brain, as following limb muscle contraction. In 13 infants on the neonatal ward (30–42 weeks corrected gestational age), ectroencephalogram (EEG) activity were analyzed. EEG is a test that detects electrical activity in the brain. All bouts of hiccups of the infants occurred during wakefulness or active sleep.
The study confirms, Involuntary isolated body movements are prominent in pre-term and full-term infants. Hiccups are involuntary contractions of respiratory muscles, primarily the diaphragm. Hiccups, observed in newborns, provides nerve impulses to the brain to the developing sensory cortices in pre-term and full-term infants.
Further, Hiccups are frequent throughout the human perinatal period during active phases of the infant. The perinatal period starts at the 20th to 28th week of gestation and ends 1 to 4 weeks after birth. Involuntary contraction of the diaphragm can be encoded by the brain from as early as ten weeks prior to the average time of birth.
The study’s senior author Lorenzo Fabrizi states, “When we are born, the circuits which process body sensations are not fully developed, so the establishment of such networks is a crucial developmental milestone for newborns.”
See the full study here
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