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Child Dev. 1996 Oct;67(5):2553-67.

Fetal neurobehavioral development.

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Department of Maternal and Child Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


The ontogeny of fetal autonomic, motoric, state, and interactive functioning was investigated longitudinally in a sample of 31 healthy fetuses from 20 weeks through term. Fetal heart rate and movement data were collected during 50 min of doppler-based fetal monitoring at 6 gestational ages. Measures of fetal heart rate and variability, activity level and vigor, behavioral state, and reactivity were derived from these digitized data. Weighted least squares analyses were conducted to model the developmental patterns and to examine the role of maternal and fetal covariates. With advancing gestation, fetuses displayed slower heart rate, increased heart rate variability, reduced but more vigorous motor behavior, coalescence of heart rate and movement patterns into distinct behavioral states, and increasing cardiac responsivity to stimulation. Male fetuses were more active than female fetuses, and greater maternal stress appraisal was associated with reduced fetal heart variability. An apparent period of neurobehavioral transition exists between 28 and 32 weeks. Fetal research methods are evaluated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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