Friday, March 26, 2010

Unborn babies respond to mother's mood

A new study suggests that the movement of an unborn child in the womb is affected by whether her mother is happy or sad. The study, from Nagasaki University in Japan, "investigated the relationship between fetal movements and acute maternal emotional changes during pregnancy," and found that "induced emotions in pregnant women primarily affect arm movements of their fetuses, and that positive and negative emotions have the opposite effects on fetus movement."

Dr. Kazuyuki Shinohara and colleagues in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior of Nagasaki University in Japan showed 10 pregnant volunteers a cheery 5-minute clip from the Julie Andrews musical The Sound of Music. Another 14 watched a tear-jerking 5 minutes from the 1979 Franco Zeffirelli film The Champ, in which a boy cries at the death of his father.

Each clip was sandwiched between two "neutral" film clips so that the team could measure any changes in fetal movements against a baseline.

The women listened to the movies using headphones to guarantee that only the effect of the mothers' emotions was being measured and that their unborn babies were not being influenced by the movie's soundtrack.

"Fetuses can hear by the last trimester," explained Dr. Shinohara.

The team counted the number of arm, leg and whole body movements via ultrasound and found that during the happy film clip the unborn babies moved their arms significantly more than when the pregnant women watched the neutral clips.

However, the unborn babies of the women watching the sad clip moved their arms significantly less than normal.