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Exp Brain Res. 2007 Jan;176(2):217-26.

Evidence of early development of action planning in the human foetus: a kinematic study.

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Department of Pediatrics, Child Neurology and Psychiatry Unit, Institute of Child Health IRCCS, Burlo Garofolo, via Dell'Istria, 65/1, Trieste, 34137, Italy.


The aim of the present study was to investigate whether foetal hand movements are planned and how they are executed. We performed a kinematic analysis of hand movements directed towards the mouth and the eyes in the foetuses of eight women with normally evolving pregnancies. At 14, 18 and 22 weeks of gestation, eight foetuses underwent a 20-min four-dimensional-ultrasound session. The video recordings for these movements were then imported into in-house software developed to perform kinematic analysis. We found that spatial and temporal characteristics of foetal movements are by no means uncoordinated or unpatterned. By 22 weeks of gestation the movements seem to show the recognizable form of intentional actions, with kinematic patterns that depend on the goal of the action, suggesting a surprisingly advanced level of motor planning.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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