Babies don't just kick for nothing – they are mapping their bodies in their brain – Innovita Research

Babies don't just kick for nothing – they are mapping their bodies in their brain

Baby kicking in mother‘s belly is somewhat of milestone in his development. Everyone puts their hands on the growing belly trying to feel it move. But scientists from UCL say that there may be more to kicking than previously believed – it may actually serve a very important function. Scientists say that by kicking baby may be mapping his own body in his brain, which later allows him to explore the world.

Movement is very important for a baby – it helps him connect his body to his brain. Image credit: Michelle Tribe via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

Scientists took some measurements of new-born babies’ brain waves when they were kicking their limbs during rapid eye movement sleep. Analysis showed that exhibited patterns in brain activity correspond to the one seen in neonates. For example, once a baby moves his right hand, neurons begin firing in the left hemisphere that is responsible for the right hand. Furthermore, the size of these brainwaves is larger in premature babies, which further suggests that foetal kicks in the late stages of pregnancy help growing areas of the brain that deal with sensory input.

Similar phenomenon has been observed in animals already, such as rats. Movements with subsequent responses in the brain have a function of mapping the body for observing the surroundings. Scientists say that these findings have very important clinical implications. Kimberley Whitehead, one of the authors of the paper, said: “For example, 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”. Scientists also stress that these movements typically occur during sleep, which suggests that sleep should be protected in newborns – they should not be disturbed, even for certain medical procedures.

There were 19 newborns aged two days on average taking part in the study. Their brain waves were measured using electroencephalography. It is likely that these results will have some implications in newborn care, especially in cases of premature birth. Understanding the role of sleep and kicking of the limbs with subsequent brain activity still needs additional studies. However, after them guidelines for parents could be improved with some recommendations regarding baby’s sleep and sensory inputs (toys, cots and so on).

Baby kicking in his mother’s belly is always exciting. It shows that the baby is growing and is healthy. Now we know that it is also has an important function for his brain development.


Source: UCL