13 February 2015 11:44

Researchers are using 4D scanning technology to discover how foetuses respond to shapes of light and sound.

Lancaster University are working with Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to find out the responses of foetuses at approximately 32 to 34 weeks of development.

Babies who have just been born prefer to look at human faces more than any other shape. Newborn babies will also mimic basic mouth movements to sounds, such as “ah” and “mm”.

Researchers want to see if these behaviours develop before birth by looking at the facial reactions to light and sound in babies just a few weeks before birth. This will help us to understand more about how babies understand other people during early development.

Study leader, Dr Vincent Reid from the Department of Psychology said; "What is amazing is how much we don’t know about what a baby just before birth can or cannot do. Can they see different shapes? Do they know that some numbers are bigger than others? Can they copy different mouth shapes of the sounds that they hear?

“We know that after birth all these things can be done by a baby. Only recently have we discovered that light is seen by the baby all the time before birth. Now that 4D scanning is possible, it is a perfect time for us to finally discover what is going on."

Mr Johnson Amu is Consultant Obstetrician at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and Principal Investigator for the study.

"This is an interesting and important study due to the potential benefit it offers. It provides expecting mums the opportunity to see their baby in the womb through 4D scan at no cost while researchers learn how foetuses understand things before they are born particularly looking at the relationship between early learning and the environment."

For more information about the study and how you can take part at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, call Kirsty Dunn on 01524 593127 or  k.dunn@lancaster.ac.uk