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The human fetus preferentially engages with face-like visual stimuli.

Reid, Vincent M. and Dunn, Kirsty and Young, Robert J. and Amu, Johnson and Donovan, Tim and Reissland, Nadja (2017) 'The human fetus preferentially engages with face-like visual stimuli.', Current biology., 27 (12). pp. 1825-1828.

Abstract

In the third trimester of pregnancy, the human fetus has the capacity to process perceptual information [1, 2, 3]. With advances in 4D ultrasound technology, detailed assessment of fetal behavior [4] is now possible. Furthermore, modeling of intrauterine conditions has indicated a substantially greater luminance within the uterus than previously thought [5]. Consequently, light conveying perceptual content could be projected through the uterine wall and perceived by the fetus, dependent on how light interfaces with maternal tissue. We do know that human infants at birth show a preference to engage with a top-heavy, face-like stimulus when contrasted with all other forms of stimuli [6, 7]. However, the viability of performing such an experiment based on visual stimuli projected through the uterine wall with fetal participants is not currently known. We examined fetal head turns to visually presented upright and inverted face-like stimuli. Here we show that the fetus in the third trimester of pregnancy is more likely to engage with upright configural stimuli when contrasted to inverted visual stimuli, in a manner similar to results with newborn participants. The current study suggests that postnatal experience is not required for this preference. In addition, we describe a new method whereby it is possible to deliver specific visual stimuli to the fetus. This new technique provides an important new pathway for the assessment of prenatal visual perceptual capacities.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution.
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Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution.
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(749Kb)
Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2017.05.044
Publisher statement:© 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Date accepted:12 May 2017
Date deposited:09 June 2017
Date of first online publication:09 June 2017
Date first made open access:09 June 2017

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