Babies' cries linked to their health

Providence, RI Leading researchers in colic and infant development say that a simple analysis of babies' cries can provide a window into their neurological and medical status.

In a research review in the current issue of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, Linda LaGasse, PhD, and Barry Lester, PhD, with the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center (BHCRC) and Brown Medical School looked at previous studies that analyzed the acoustics of a baby's cry. The authors cite the characteristics of a cry that can indicate problems in a baby's nervous system, as well as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In addition, they cite the importance of how parents react to their squalling offspring.

"The cry signal has enormous potential diagnostic value; for example, very high pitched cries can tell us that something may be wrong with the infant, so the cry signal can be an early warning that leads to further neurological testing," says LaGasse.

Overall, studies have repeatedly shown that infants at medical risk (like premature babies), and infants who have been exposed to lead or drugs, cry at a higher and more variable frequency than normal, but at lower amplitude, and with short utterances. These types of cry signals point toward a capacity problem in the respiratory system as well as an increased tension and instability of neural control of the vocal tract.

"Given the results of earlier studies relating cry characteristics to known neurological compromise, these findings suggest that at-risk infants have undetected neurological damage and that cry analysis may be able to identify these infants when no other symptoms are present," says Lester.

In looking at cry analyses on sudden infant death syndrome, researchers found that high resonance and changes in the cry mode were consistent markers associated with SIDS. Resonance is the characteristic of a sound's richness and depth that help humans distinguish a C note on

Contact: Carol L. Hoy

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