Hiccups in Infants Reveal Crucial Process of Brain Development, Scientists Say

by Helen Gonzales
Hiccups in Infants Reveal Crucial Process of Brain Development, Scientists Say

Adults can express their feelings or say the things that are happening inside the body. But in the case of infants, it is extremely difficult to understand what’s going on inside. Sometimes, it is a challenging situation for jumpy new parents when a baby hiccups. In reality, it is a usual thing for infants to hiccup up to eight minutes every time. Besides, researchers surmise while doing it, newborns are training themselves to manage and carb their breathing. In short, they are learning to take a breath. Before this, researchers have tied hiccups to other complexities, including the inconvenient reflex with digestive problems. But now they have a new answer to the question – why we hiccup.

Hiccup, also referred to as hiccough, are unexpected, uncontrolled contractions that occur in the diaphragm muscle. A new study, published in the journal Clinical Neurophysiology, reveals hiccups could be significant in the case of brain development of babies. Notably, the latest findings regarding hiccups in infants rely on brain scans of 13 newborn babies. Neurologists, from University College London (UCL), have found that when an infant hiccups, it initiates a wave of brain signals. The tide of neuro signals could assist the baby in learning to regulate breathing. Kimberley Whitehead, leading author of the study, said, the reason behind hiccups is unclear. She noted a development-oriented motive might exist behind frequent hiccups in babies and fetuses. They have detected that babies in the womb start hiccupping as soon as nine weeks of pregnancy.

The study reveals pre-mature babies, whose birth occurs three weeks before the maturity date, are specifically inclined to hiccup. Even more, those babies pass up to 15 minutes or around 1% of their time hiccupping. Lorenzo Fabrizi, a senior author of the study, said after birth, the body does not have a fully-developed mechanism that handles its senses. Thus, the formation of such networks is an essential breakthrough for infants. Kimberley said the massive muscle contraction is better for brain development as it abruptly gives a strong boost of input. It assists the brain cells to all come together for that individual part of the body. She also noted that hiccups do not have known benefits for adults.

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