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Do Fetuses Have Brain Activity

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Fetal Brain Development Week 11


The spinal cord is clearly defined and the spinal nerves start to stretch out from the spinal cord.This week sees the completion of the first trimester. The sex of the baby can be determined in this period. The heart, liver, spleen and many other organs are already functioning. By this stage, the baby is taking plenty of nourishment through the placenta. The fetus also begins its practice of breathing, inhaling, and exhaling. The eyelids will close and not open until the 28th week.

Tests To Confirm Infant Brain Damage

The majority of infant brain damage cases are diagnosed by observing symptoms and conducting tests. Computed tomography scans and magnetic resonance imaging are two tests that provide images of the brain. These tests communicate to the doctor if there is a brain injury, such as a hemorrhage or a skull fracture. In addition, an electroencephalogram may also be done. An EEG is a test that calculates the electric pathways of the brain to make sure that communications are normal and strong.

It is more difficult to assess the brain and mental health of infants and children under two years of age. An MRI and head ultrasound can be helpful in assessing brain health and any possible brain damage.

Fetal Brain Development Week 5

The first sign of the cerebral hemisphere is visible at this stage. As the brain continues to develop, other organs like the circulatory system begins to function with all four chambers of the heart present. We can see upper and lower limb buds. The heart too starts to beat with twice the rate of the mother.

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Brain Development Of Fetus

Expectant mothers are always excited and curious to know about the growth of their little one inside their womb. Besides the physical growth, metal growth is imperative. A specific timeline for the brain development of the fetus is necessary for the mother to act accordingly to ensure the healthy growth of the fetus.

Expectant mothers are always excited and curious to know about the growth of their little one inside their womb. Besides the physical growth, metal growth is imperative. A specific timeline for the brain development of the fetus is necessary for the mother to act accordingly to ensure the healthy growth of the fetus.

How a brain works, and what makes it tick has always intrigued and mesmerized researchers. All progress and regression in our life can be easily attributed to the way our brain works, thinks, deduces, reasons, concludes, etc. Life starts at with the fertilization of the egg, until the eighth week it is called as an embryo. From the eighth week until the moment of birth, it is known as fetus. Brain development involves the formation of the brain, nervous system and spinal cord, it all begins at the embryonic stage itself.

Psychological Arguments For Fetal Pain

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A different approach to unravelling whether a fetus feels pain is to focus more closely on what we mean by pain. Many people take the International Association for the Study of Pain definition as their starting point, which states that pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage pain is always subjective. Each individual learns the application of the word through experiences related to injury in early life. That definition is often interpreted as meaning that pain is not just phenomenological but also reflective. As others have pointed out, such a demanding definition of pain restricts pain almost exclusively to fairly mature human beings. To ease that restriction it might be worthwhile to consider a less sophisticated definition, which focuses less on subjective reflection and more on the immediate and unreflective feel of pain .

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Development Of The Neural Circuits Of Consciousness

At birth, the newborn brain is in a transitional stage of development with an almost adult number of neurons but an immature set of connections . During the few months after birth, there is an overproduction of synapses accompanied by a process of synaptic elimination and stabilization, which lasts until adolescence . Myelination begins prenatally, but is not completed until the third decade in the frontal cortex where the highest executive functions and conscious thoughts take place .

Figure 2

Comparison between the maturation of thalamocortical-cortical connections and somatosensory evoked potentials . In the early preterm infant , thalamic axons establish a dense synaptic network in the subplate. After approximately 25 gestational weeks thalamic fibers make synapses in the deep cortical layers. In the full-term infants, the thalamic fibers have reached their final destination in layer IV of the cortex. This is reflected by the SEP responses. In the early preterms, the evoked responses consist only of long depolarizations of the deep layers. A delayed cortical activation can be seen. When the thalamic-cortical fibers extend to the cortex, faster cortical responses are seen, paralleling the accumulation of synapses in layer IV. Reprinted from Vanhatalo et al., Semin Fetal Neonatal Med 11:464-470, Copyright © 2006 Elsevier Ltd., with permission.

Recordings From The Maternal Abdomen

To record the most accurate brain signals, scientists try to minimize the distance between the recording electrode and fetal cortex by using an ultrasound to get the electrodes on the maternal abdomen as close to the fetal head as possible. The original fetal EEGs came from recordings through the maternal abdomen. However, electrical activity from the mother’s heart, abdominal and uterine muscles all create artifacts in the fetal EEG recording. An artifact is electrical activity detected by the EEG that comes a source that the scientist does not want to measure. Muscles create electrical activity in the range of 20100 Hz, and the uterine wall creates slow-wave activity and fast-wave activity related to the intrauterine pressure. Furthermore, the maternal heartbeat dominates recordings in every electrode and must be filtered out with computer algorithms.

Recordings from the maternal abdomen or cervix have less than 5 cm of tissue between the maternal skin and the fetal cortex. A typical human slow wave is 100-500 mV in amplitude, but the voltage strength declines with the square of the distance between the neural activity and the recording electrode. Even with modern techniques, scientists still have difficulties detecting brain activity recorded from outside the womb.

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What About Responses In The Brain

When babies listen to music, it doesnt just affect their heart rates. It also stimulates brain activity, and researchers can track changes in this activity by using event-related potentials small changes in voltage that can be detected by attaching electrodes to an infants scalp.

So Eino Partanen and his colleagues used this approach to look for neural differences in the way that newborns respond to music. Do their brains react differently if they hear music they encountered during gestation?

Partanens team began their study by asking a dozen pregnant women to follow a specific music-listening regimen, starting at 29 weeks gestation.

Once per day, 5 times per week, the mothers-to-be listened to a specially-prepared, keyboard rendition of the song, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

The babies ended up hearing this tune a lot. Anywhere between 138 and 192 times!

But the prenatal music lessons ended immediately before childbirth. And then, as newborns, the babies heard the tune once again the first time since emerging from the womb.

The researchers recorded the infants ERPs as they listened. And they did the same for infants in a control group newborns who hadnt been through the special, prenatal regimen.

And the outcome?

There was a clear difference between groups. The babies who had experienced prenatal training showed a stronger, more dramatic change in brain activity while listening to the familiar tune.

How To Optimize Your Childs Prognosis

The Baby Brain

As a parent, you have a key role in helping your child heal and move past his or her brain injury. Together with your childs healthcare team, you will provide support for your child at home and school. Of course, you want what is best for your child, and you want them to have every opportunity to thrive.

There are some things that you can do to optimize your childs prognosis, such as:

  • Talk to your childs doctors about things you can do at home to help your child.
  • Work with therapists and create a list of activities that you can do at home with your child to support what they are learning during therapy sessions.
  • Consider family counseling with a psychologist or psychiatrist who is experienced with brain injury cases. This can help your entire family better understand the changes that may happen in your home.
  • Encourage your child to set small, reasonable goals. Praise him or her when those goals are met. Be supportive and encouraging when they are not.
  • Develop a lifestyle routine for your home and family that is as normal as possible.
  • Reach out to your community for support. There are often state and local networks dedicated to families suffering from certain types of injury or illness.
  • When its time for school, work with your childs teachers to develop a plan for academic success. Your child may need special accommodations or an individualized education plan .

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What Develops In The Second Trimester

During the second trimester, Gaither says the brain begins to take command of bodily functions. This includes specific movements that come from the hindbrain, and more specifically, the cerebellum.

One of the first notable developments, sucking and swallowing, are detectable around 16 weeks. Fast-forward to 21 weeks, and Gaither says baby can swallow amniotic fluid.

Its also during the second trimester that breathing movements begin as directed by the developing central nervous system. Experts call this practice breathing since the brain is directing the diaphragm and chest muscles to contract.

And dont be surprised if you feel some kicking during this trimester. Remember the cerebellum or the part of the brain responsible for motor control? Well, its directing the babys movements, including kicking and stretching.

Gaither points out that a fetus can begin to hear during the late second trimester, and a sleep pattern emerges as the brainwaves from the developing hypothalamus become more mature.

What Is Infant Brain Injury

Over 1 million people currently have some form of brain damage in the United States, and an overwhelming amount of these people are infants. Brain damage occurs in many forms and can impact various parts of the body. An infant may experience a variety of disabilities and long-term effects on his or her development, depending on the type of brain damage and the severity of the injury

The medical costs associated with infant brain damage can be astronomical, even reaching millions of dollars each year. Infant brain damage typically occurs during pregnancy, during the delivery process, or shortly after birth. A variety of factors can cause infant brain damage, and its important to look out for any signs if you suspect your baby is injured.

Infant brain damage can occur in any part of the brain. However, there are three parts of the brain that are most commonly affected by birth injuries. These are:

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Evidence That Babies Can Recognize Music They Heard During Gestation

If a pregnant woman listens to the same melody again and again it presents a possibility. Might her fetus become familiar with the music? So much so that the baby will be capable recognizing the tune later after childbirth?

Some of the babies had gestated with mothers who were fans of the TV program. As fetuses, these babies had heard the theme song many times.

And other babies? Their moms hadnt watched the show during pregnancy. The theme song was totally unfamiliar to them.

So Hepper played the tune to newborns, and found evidence for fetal memory.

The babies who had overhead the theme song during gestation became more alert. Their heart rates slowed, and they stopped moving around.

This reaction was absent when the same infants listened to other, unfamiliar melodies. And it was also absent among the babies who hadnt been exposed to the TV theme during pregnancy .

Intrigued, Hepper conducted a follow-up study, where he monitored fetuses directly via ultrasound.

Once again, he tested babies responses to the same TV theme song, and once again, he found a difference. It wasnt apparent among young fetuses . But by 37 weeks gestation, infants were behaving differently when they heard familiar music .

Is this conclusive? Not exactly. The studies were small, making it hard to rule out chance effects. But Heppers work inspired other research and the results support the idea that fetuses can learn about music.

Do Fetuses Feel Pain What The Science Says

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Utah recently passed a law that requires doctors to give anesthesia to a fetus prior to performing an abortion that occurs at 20 weeks of gestation or later.

The law assumes that a fetus may be able to feel pain at that stage in development however, doctors groups and other critics of the law argue that a fetus cannot feel pain at 20 weeks gestational age.

Indeed, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said it considers the case to be closed as to whether a fetus can feel pain at that stage in development.

“The science shows that based on gestational age, the fetus is not capable of feeling pain until the third trimester,” said Kate Connors, a spokesperson for ACOG. The third trimester begins at about 27 weeks of pregnancy.

To find out more, Live Science dug into the research and spoke with a leading expert on fetal pain. Here’s a look at what we found.

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Makes Imaging Of Moving Subjects Possible

NIBIB-funded researchers at the University of Washington have pioneered an approach to image functional activity in the brains of individual fetuses, allowing a better look at how functional networks within the brain develop. The work addresses a common problem of functional MRI if the subject moves during the scanning, the images get distorted.

S. Seshamani, et al.

The new work focused on the default mode networka collection of regions that are active when the brain is at rest, when someone is daydreaming or letting their mind wander, not concentrating on a specific task. Fetal brains are in default mode for much of the time, but it is not very well known how this network develops.

This is one of the first papers to take individual fetuses and look at the naturally developing default mode network in the human fetal brain, says Vinay Pai, Ph.D., director of the Division of Health Informatics Technologies at NIBIB. Since movement of the baby or the mother is no longer an issue, It allows you to look at more natural developmental stages.

The technique can also be used to compare differences in brain development in premature and full-term babies the effects of alcohol, drug use, or stress during pregnancy or if there are any prenatal differences in babies that go on to develop neurodevelopmental disorders like autism. And it is not restricted to imaging the brain Studholme also plans to study the placenta and how its development influences the brain.

Clinical And Policy Implications

Earlier beliefs by anaesthetists that newborns and neonates could not feel pain led to an under-utilisation of analgesics.w12-w14 Before controlled trials,w15 w16 however, there were justified concerns about intraoperative hypotension caused by the anaesthesia of infants, and about postanaesthesia apnoea and respiratory depression by narcotic analgesia. Sufficient evidence now shows that such risks during procedures on neonates and infants are outweighed by the clinical benefits, regardless of whether evidence supports or negates the concept of pain in neonates. Should anaesthetists return to a view that neonates cannot feel pain, the clinical benefits of anaesthetic intervention will remain. A lack of pain experience provides no ethical or practical reason to justify returning to a regimen of fewer anaesthetics or analgesic intervention.

As more centres begin to carry out open and closed fetal surgery,w17 enthusiasm for analgesia and anaesthesia in fetuses is likely to increase. It is tempting to assume that what benefits neonates will also benefit fetuses. However the greater immaturity of fetuses and their different hormonal and physical environment indicate that clinical trials should be carried out with fetal patients to show improved outcomes. Currently no defined evidence based fetal anaesthesia or analgesia protocol exits for these procedures.

Summary points

The neuroanatomical system for pain can be considered complete by 26 weeks’ gestation

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Where To Get Help And Support

If your baby isnt meeting the milestones listed in their child health record, or if you think that something might be wrong with your babys vision, hearing, communicating, behaviour, moving or growth, see your doctor or child and family health nurse. You can also call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to talk to a maternal child health nurse.

The Neurobiology Of The Fetus: Anatomical Pathways

Why Can’t We Remember Being Babies?

Notwithstanding limitations, it is useful to view the pain system as an alarm system. Viewed in this way, a noxious stimulus is an event that activates free nerve endings in the skin, similar to pushing an alarm button. The electric cable from the button to the alarm is similar to the connection between the nerve endings and the brain. The brain is the alarm that rings out pain. Whether the fetus can respond to a noxious stimulus with pain can thus be decided in part by determining when the alarm system is completely developed.

Free nerve endings, the alarm buttons, begin to develop at about seven weeks’ gestation, projections from the spinal cord, the major cable to the brain, can reach the thalamus at seven weeks’ gestation. An intact spinothalamic projection might be viewed as the minimal necessary anatomical architecture to support pain processing, putting the lower limit for the experience of pain at seven weeks’ gestation.

Can a fetus experience pain?

Spinothalamic projections into the subplate may provide the minimal necessary anatomy for pain experience, but this view does not account for the transient nature of the subplate and its apparent role in the maturation of functional cortical connections. A lack of functional neuronal activity within the subplate calls into question the pain experience of a fetus before the penetration of spinothalamic fibres into the cortical plate.

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