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Dev Psychol. 2004 May;40(3):445-56.

Fetal neurobehavioral development: a tale of two cities.

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Department of Population and Family Health Sciences, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Longitudinal neurobehavioral development was examined in 237 fetuses of low-risk pregnancies from 2 distinct populations--Baltimore, Maryland, and Lima. Peru--at 20, 24, 28, 32, 36, and 38 weeks gestation. Data were based on digitized Doppler-based fetal heart rate (FHR) and fetal movement (FM). In both groups. FHR declined while variability, episodic accelerations, and FM-FHR coupling increased, with discontinuities evident between 28 and 32 weeks gestation. Fetuses in Lima had higher FHR and lower variability, accelerations, and FM-FHR coupling. Declines in trajectories were typically observed 1 month sooner in Lima, which magnified these disparities. Motor activity differences were less consistent. No sex differences in fetal neurobehaviors were detected. It is concluded that population factors can influence the developmental niche of the fetus.

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