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The development of anticipation in the fetus : a longitudinal account of human fetal mouth movements in reaction to and anticipation of touch.

Reissland, N. and Francis, B. and Aydin, E. and Mason, J. and Schaal, B. (2014) 'The development of anticipation in the fetus : a longitudinal account of human fetal mouth movements in reaction to and anticipation of touch.', Developmental psychobiology., 56 (5). pp. 955-963.


Background: Research suggests that fetuses open or close their mouth in relation to directed movements (e.g. Myowa-Yamakoshi & Takeshita, 2006) but it is unclear whether mouth opening anticipates the touch or is a reaction to touch, as there has been no analysis so far of 1) the facial area of touch and 2) the sequential ordering of touch and mouth movements. If there is prenatal development of touch we would expect the frequency of fetal mouth opening immediately preceding the arriving hand at the mouth area to increase with fetal age. Participants: Fifteen healthy fetuses, 8 girls and 7 boys, underwent four additional 4-D scans at 24, 28, 32 and 36 weeks gestation. Results: Changes in the frequency of touch for different facial regions indicated a significant decline in touch upper and side part of the face and a significant increase in touching lower and perioral regions of the face with increasing gestational age. Results supporting the hypothesis showed a significant increase in the proportion of anticipatory mouth movements before touching increasing by around 8% with each week of gestational age. Additionally there was a decrease in the proportion of reactive mouth movements decreasing by around 3% for each week of gestational age.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Human fetus, Development of anticipation of touch, Fetal mouth movements, Comparison of reactive and anticipatory touch, 4-D scans.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Twiss, S. D., Wright, N. C., Dunstone, N., Redman, P., Moss, S. and Pomeroy, P. P. (2002), Behavioral evidence of thermal stress from over-heating in UK breeding gray seals, Marine Mammal Science, 18 (2): 455–468, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
Date accepted:06 September 2013
Date deposited:04 October 2013
Date of first online publication:July 2014
Date first made open access:No date available

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