Frank Lake's Maternal-Fetal Distress Syndrome:
- An Analysis -

By Stephen M. Maret, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
Caldwell University


B. Morphological and Psychological Evidence for Lake's M-FDS

    Fetal Development
      1. Embryonal Development
      2. Fetal Development
        a. Neurological Development
        b. Movement
        c. Tactile Sense

        d. Crying

Audible fetal crying is rare because it requires the presence of air in the fetal trachea. Called "vagitus uterinus", it often occurs after an air amniogram. Goodlin writes:

There is no way to prove the point, but presumably the normal fetus is frequently "crying in utero, but only the presence of air within the uterus makes it obvious. . . . It therefore seems reasonable to assume that fetuses are often as uncomfortable (enough to cry) "in utero" as "extra-utero."195

Chamberlain writes that various researchers have recorded the cries of "abortuses from 21-24 weeks . . . weighing 650-930 grams.196 One study discovered that early clamping of the umbilical cord resulted in much greater crying than late-clamping, "suggesting that babies were experiencing something that they did not like."197 In addition, spectrographic studies of the cry response after birth indicate meaningful expression of various pain states, including hunger, pain, loneliness or discomfort which are clearly distinguishable from each and correlatable to the infant state.198

195Goodlin, Care of the Fetus, 193.

196David Chamberlain, "The Mind of the Newborn: Increasing Evidence of Competence," in Prenatal PsychoIogy and Medicine, eds. P.G. Fedor-Freybergh and M.LV. Vogel (Park Ridge NJ: The Parthenon Publishing Group, 1988), 9.

197M. Greenberg, V. Vuorenkoski, T. Partanen, and J. Und, "Behavior and Cry Patterns in the First Two hours of Life in Early and Late Clamped Newborns," Finnish Annals of Pediatrics 13 (1967): 64.

198Chamberlain, "The Mind of the Newborn," 9.


e. The Vestibular Sense

Of the "senses" of the body, the vestibular apparatus appears first, at around 9.5 weeks,199 with morphological maturity at 14 weeks200 It is unknown how early the sense of balance is functioning, but Hooker has reported 25 weeks as the earliest "definite human vestibular response.201 As early as 1927, Galebsky had shown that by birth the semicircular canals are functional to the extent that the neonate experience any type of sudden movement, including rotatory, vertical and horizontal.202

f. The Gustatory Sense

The "sense" of taste also appears quite early in the fetal period, with microscopic analysis of fetal tongues finding that taste "buds" are present at 8 weeks, morphologically mature at 12 weeks,203 and having all the necessary additions such as the pores and hair cells present by 14 weeks. Researchers have concluded that the gustatory sense is functional by 15 weeks.204 Since amniotic fluid begins entering the mouth at 9.5 weeks and the fetus begins swallowing at 12 weeks,205 it is likely that the fetus is tasting the glucose, fructose, citric, lactic, uric, fatty and pyruvic acids, amino-acids, phospholipids, creatinine, urea, polypeptides, proteins, salts, and other chemical agents in the amniotic fluid for up to 28 weeks before birth.206

199ibid., 7.

200Goodlin, Care of the Fetus, 2.

201Hooker, The Prenatal Origin of Behavior 70.

202A. Gabelsky, "Vestibular Nystagmus in Newborn Infants,' Acta Otolaryngologica 11(1927): 409-423.

203GoodIin, Care of the Fetus, 2.

204R.II. Bradley and LB. Stern, "The Development of the Human Taste Bud During the Foetal Period," Journal of Anatomy 101(1967): 743-752.

205David Chamberlain, "Consciousness at Birth: The Range of Empirical Evidence," in Pre- and Pen-Natal Psychology: An Introduction, ed. Thomas R. Verny (New York: Human Sciences Press, Inc., 1987), 73.

206C.M. Mistretta and R. M. Bradley, "Taste in Utero: Theoretical Considerations," in Taste and Development: The Genesis of Sweet Preference, ed. J.M. Weiffenbach (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1977), 51-69.


Misratta and Bradley conclude that taste preferences at birth are related to the fetal experience with various tastes during the intra-uterine period.207

The fetus drinks amniotic fluid regularly, reaching a rate of 15-40 ml per hour during the third semester. Research modifying the taste of amniotic fluid produces dramatic results. An early study done by de Snoo208 in 1937 found that the injection of saccharin increased the rate of fetal swallowing in 34-38 week fetuses. Liley confirms this, stating that the rate usually doubled. However, some conversely drank less. An almost total cessation of fetal drinking occurs with the injection of Lipidol, an "iodinated poppy seed oil which tastes foul to an adult or child and which causes a neonate to grimace and cry." 209 Liley further writes that the fetus digests the constituent components of the amniotic fluid and that caloric intake may reach 40 calories a day.210

Swallowing, tongue and lip movements all originate between the 10th and 12th weeks followed by a gag reflex apparent in the 18th week211 and sucking and puckering in the 22nd with the possibility of audible crying occurring between the 21st and 23rd week. Starting in the 18th week, respiratory contractions began and continued to get stronger.212 Fetal hiccups occur and are fairly common. Indeed, they can be induced by "irrigating the amniotic cavity with cold solutions."213

Liley maintains that not only is the fetus an experienced swallower by the time birth occurs, but that in many cases it also has extensive suckling experience. Obstetric sonography and radiography has produced images of thumbsucking as early as 9 weeks. Liley maintains that the quite common occupance of the sucking of fingers and toes in the fetal period is an early manifestation of the "rooting" reflex common among neonates.214

207ibid.. 62.

208K. De Snoo, "Das Trinkende Kind im uterus," Monatsschrift Geburtsh GynaekoIogie 105 (1937): 88, quoted by Goodlin, Care of the Fetus, 2.

209Liley, "The Foetus as Personality," 196.

210ibid., 197.

211Hooker, The Prenatal Origin of Behavior, 70-74.

212ibid., 74-75.

213Ridgeway, The Unborn Child, 23.

214Liley, "The Foetus as Personality," 197-198.


g. The Olfactory Sense

While no evidence exists which allows one to conclusively state that human fetuses smell, this is not surprising given the absence of air within the uterus. Without the airborne particles needed to stimulate the specialized receptors within the olfactory epithelium, smell is impossible. However, some animal studies have found evidence of olfactory function in utero215 and have connected odors with aversion conditioning.216

Research done with neonates immediately following birth, however, clearly demonstrates that the sense of smell is present and functional at birth.217 Research has shown behavior indicating "acceptance and satisfaction" to the odors of bananas, strawberries and vanilla while indicating "rejection" to the odors of rotten eggs and fish.218 In a similar study, babies from 1-6 days old turned away from the smell of ammonia on either the left or right indicating the ability to spatially orient the source of the smell and react accordingly.219

Other researchers have demonstrated learning behavior related to the sense of smell. Studies have shown habituation and dishabituation to various smells (licorice, garlic, vinegar and alcohol) by neonates with the clear ability to distinguish between pairs of smells.220 Newborns between 2 and 7 days can also quickly distinguish between their mother's used breast pad and an unused one, and within several days distinguish between their mother's used pad and another woman's.221 Breast-fed neonates also learn very quickly to discriminate their mother's underarm odor from that of other women.222

215Patricia E. Petersen, William B. Stewart, Charles A. Greer, and Gordon M. Shepherd, "Evidence for Olfactory Function in Utero," Science 221(1983): 478-480.

216WilIiam P. Smotherman, "Odor Aversion Learning by the Rat Fetus," Physiology and Behavior 29 (1982): 769-771.

217Benoist Schaal, "Olfaction in Infants and Children: Developmental and Functional Perspectives," Chemical Senses 13 (1958): 145-190.

218J.E. Steiner, "Facial Expressions of the Neonate Infant Indicating Hedonics of Food-Related Chemical Stimuli," in Tastes and Development: The Genesis of Sweet Preference. ed. J.M. Weiftenbach (Washington DC: US Govt Printing Office, 1977); J.E. Steiner, "Human Facial Expressions in Response to Taste and Smell Stimulation," Advances in Child Development and Behavior 13 (1979): 257-295.

219J. Rieser, A. Vonas, and K. Wikner, "Radial Localization of Odors by Human Newborns," Child Development 47 (1976): 856-859.

220T. Engen and LP. Upsitt, "Decrement and Recovery of Responses to Olfactory Stimuli in the Human Neonate," Journal of Comparative & Physiologicnl Psychology 59 (1965): 312-316; T. Engen, LP. Upsitt and H. Kaye, "Olfactory Responses and Adaptation in the Human Neonate," Journal of Comparative & Physiological Psychology, 56 (1963): 73.

221A. Macfarlane, "Olfaction in the Development of Social Preferences in the Human Neonate," Parent­Child lnteraction, CIBA Symposium 33 (1975).

222J.M. Cernoch and R.H. Porter, "Recognition of Maternal Axillary Odours by Infants," Child Development, 56:6, 1593-98.


h. The Auditory Sense

The morphological structures which would allow hearing to occur are present and functional in the fetus from 20 weeks on.223 Due to the presence of fluid in both the middle and external ear, there has been some debate among researchers as to sound energy levels actually reaching the fetus. Research does indicate that hearing does indeed take place224 through bone conduction,225 thus mostly at the higher-frequency levels.226 Other research has shown that from the 24th week on, fetal listening is quite constant.227 One study examining fetal movement of the eyes, arms, legs and head in response to sound found that responses first occurred between the 24th and 25th weeks, with consistent response following the 28th week.228

223This conclusion came after a study of 700 fetuses. (R.B. Eisenberg, "Auditory Behavior in the Human Neonate: Functional Properties of Sound and Their Ontogenetic Implications," International Audiology 8 (1969): 34-45.

224Liley writes: "[The] averaging of foetal electroencephalographic records with repeated stimuli shows sound-evoked cortical potentials and demonstrates as does experience with deaf mothers that the foetus is responding directly. . . . Higher frequencies suffer less loss than low frequencies in transmission though tissues and fluid. Therefore, it is probably that with sound, unlike light, intrauterine spectra are similar to extrauterine. Further, it is worth noting that, unlike most foetal organs which start off in miniature, the structures of the inner ear are very nearly of adult size from initial development. This magnitude of course is necessary because cochlear spectral response obeys simple physical laws dependent on cochlear dimensions. If, for instance, the cochlear grew in proportion to the rest of the body, babies and children would hear in a different frequency range from adults and the communication gap between generations would be even wider than it is already." (Liley, "The Foetus as Personality," 199).

225O. H. Jensen and G. Flottorp, "A Method for Controlled Sound Stimulation of the Human Fetus," Scandinavian Audiology 11(1982): 145-150.

226A. A. Tomatis, "Ontogenesis of the Faculty of Hearing," in Pre- and Peri-Natal Psychology: An Introduction, ed. Thomas R. Verny (New York: Human Sciences Press, Inc., 1987), 28-29.

227Erik Wedenberg and Bjorn Johansson, "When the Fetus Isn't Listening," Medical World News (April 1970): 28-29.

228Jason C. Birnholz and Baryl R. Benacerraf, "The Development of Human Fetal Hearing," Science 222 (1983): 516-518.


That this is true is not surprising given the noise level inside the uterus. Utilizing an intrauterine photocatheter, noise as loud as 85 decibels reaches the fetus,229 mostly from the mother's bodily internal activity. Less noisy, but still around 55 decibels are the intermittent sounds of voices, including the mother's and father's, and the more regular sounds of the flow of blood in synchrony with the mother's heartbeat.

Research done by SaIk230 and others231 has shown that this early fetal hearing is "remembered" after birth.232 Using recordings of heartbeats at an "ideal" 72 per minute, Salk played these for a group of newborns while a similar "control group heard no recordings. Even though both groups recorded the same amount of food intake, the experimental group gained more weight and gained it quicker. The difference in time spent crying was also significant with the control group spending 60% vs. 38% for the experimental group in time spent crying.

Any sudden noise in a room will cause a startle response in a fetus "lined up under an image intensifier."233 Indeed, when fetuses are tonally stimulated, their heart rates changes immediately and they begin to move.234 Indeed, the simple observation of fetal reactions to

229Liley, "The Foetus as Personality," 199.

230Lee Salk, "The Critical Nature of the Postpartum Period in the Human for the Establishment of the Mother-Infant Bond: A Controlled Study," Diseases of the Nervous System 31(1970): 110-116; Lee Salk, "The Role of the Heartbeat in the Relations Between the Mother and Infant," Scientific American (May 1973): 24-29. Chamberlain, citing Salk's 1973 study, writes that "at one point in the experiment when the heart sound was broadcast at 128 beats per minute, it became intolerable to the babies and had to be stopped." (Chamberlain, "The Cognitive Newborn," 37).

231Paul C. Vitz, "Preference for Tones as a Function of Frequency (hertz) and Intensity (decibels)," Perception and Psychophysics 11 (1972): 84-88.

232Commenting on the constant sound of the mother's heartbeat in utero, Liley writes: "Does this long exposure explain why a baby is comforted by holding him to your chest or is lulled to sleep by the old wives' alarm clock, or the magnetic tape of a heartbeat? Does this experience explain why the tick of a grandfather clock in a quiet study or library can be a reassurance rather than a distraction, why people asked to set a metronome to a rate which "satisfies" them will usually chose a rate In the 50-90 beat per minute range - and twins show a strong concordance in independent choice?" (Liley, "The Foetus as Personality," 199-200).

233ibid., 199.

234J. Bernard and L. W. Sontag, "Fetal Reactivity to Tonal Stimulation: A Preliminary Report," Journal of Genetic Psychology 70 (1947): 205; J.P. Lecanuet, C. Granier-Deferre, H. Cohen, and R. le Houezec. "Fetal Responses to Acoustic Stimulation Depend on Heart Variability Pattern, Stimulus Intensity and Repetition," Early Human Development 13 (1986): 269-283.


tones of sound are quite predictive of deafness.235 As the decibel level of sound increases, so does the activity and heart rate of the fetus.236 Using the fetal heart rate as a measure of response, 40 decibels in amplitude and 300 milliseconds in duration seems to be the parameters of auditory sensation.237 Thus, many of the normal sounds of life are within the auditory scope of sensation and some studies seem to indicate a "remembering" of familiar noises, particularly their mother's voice.238

Research has also shown that four and five month-old fetuses will respond differently to various types of music,239 quieting down to Mozart and Vivaldi and exhibiting "violent kicking and movement" to the music of Beethoven and Brahms and rock music of every type.240 From about 25 weeks on, infants will "jump" in synchrony with the beat of an orchestral performance.241

Using sophisticated technology242 Truby243 and his colleagues focused have found that fetuses in utero were, through hearing of some sort, receiving and "remembering" various maternal speech features. Interestingly, Truby found similar correspondences of the infant cry


235C. Granier-Deferre, J.P. Lecanuet, H. Cohen, and M.C. Busnel, "Feasibility of a Prenatal Hearing Test," Acta Oto Laryngologica, Supplement 421(1985): 93-101.

236A.K. Bartoshuk, "Human Neonatal Cardiac Acceleration to Sound: Habituation and Dishabituation," Perceptual and Motor Skills 15 (1962): 15-27.

237R.B. Eisenberg. "Auditory Behavior in the Human Neonate: I. Methodologic problems and the Logical Design of Research Procedures," Journal of Auditory Research 5 (1965): 159-177.

238EIizabeth M. Ockleford, Margaret A. Vince and Claire Layton, "Responses of Neonates to Parent's and Other's Voices," Early Human Development 18 (1988): 27-36.

239Clifford Olds, "A Sound Start in Ufe," Pre- and Pen-Natal Psychology Journal 1(1986): 82-85; Donald J. Shetler, "The Inquiry into Prenatal Musical Experience: A Report of the Eastman Projects, 1980-1987," Pre­ and Peri-Natal Psychology Journal 3 (1989): 171-189.

240Michael Clements, "Observations on Certain Aspects of Neonatal Behavior in Response to Auditory Stimuli," Paper presented at the 5th International Congress of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, Rome, 1977. Another researcher relates that one pregnant women who attended a rock concert came home with a broken rib due to the violent kicking of her fetus in response to the music. (Olds, "A Sound Start in Life," 82-85).

241Liley, "The Foetus as Personality," 199.

242Acoustic spectrograms and sonocineradiographic tracings.

243H.M. Truby and J. Und, "Cry Sounds of the Newborn Infant," In Newborn Infant Cry, ed. J. Und, Acta Paediatrica Scandinavica (1965): Supplement 163; H.M. Truby, "Prenatal and Neonatal Speech, Pre-Speech, and an Infantile Speech Lexicon," Child Language/Word 27 (1975): Parts 1-3.


related to the speech rhythms and intonations of the mother in extremely premature neonates (900 grams). The fact that newborns of mute mothers do not cry at all, or if so, cried in a very peculiar manner, lead Truby to speculate that the reception of incoming maternal speech is necessary for the production of speech. Further, confirming other studies related to fetal crying, Truby noted that fetuses seemed to be practicing the neuromuscular gestures of crying and vocalization.

Much research has also focused upon the ability of newborns to apprehend various sounds. Using brainstem electric response audiometry (BERA) it has been shown that normal neonates hear as well as adults.244 While newborns seem to be especially responsive to sound frequencies within which the human voice falls, namely in the 500-900 Hertz range, they seem to prefer higher rather than lower frequency noises.245 Newborns can distinguish the directions of sound sources246 and they consistently respond to various noises when awake and asleep as measured by brain-wave patterns.247 They react to recorded infant cries by crying themselves,248 but to their own recorded cry by stopping crying, perhaps indicating a recognition of their own familiar voice.249

244C. Schulman-Galambos and R. Galambos, "Assessment of Hearing," in Infants Born at Risk: Behavior and Development, ed. T.M. Field (New York: S.P. Medical & Scientific Books, 1979): 17ff.

245Chamberlain, "The Cognitive Newborn," 38.

246M. Wertheimer, "Psychomotor Coordination of Auditory and visual Space at Birth," Science, 134 (1961): 1692.

247W.S. Goodman, S.V. Appleby, J.W. Scott, and P.E. Ireland, "Audiometry in Newborn Children by Laryngoscope 74 (1964): 1316-1328; E.D. Weitzman, W. Fishbein, and L Graziani, "Auditory Evoked Responses Obtained From the Scalp Electroencephalogram of the Full Term Neonate During Sleep," Pediatrics 35 (1965): 458-462.

248M. Simner, "Newborns' Response to the Cry of Another Infant," Developmental Psychology 5 (1971): 136-150; A. Sagi and M.L Hoffman, "Epathetic Distress in the Newborn, " Developmental PsychoIogy 12 (1976): 175-176.

249G. Martin, "Newborns Pacified by Tapes of Their Own Crying," Brain/Mind Bulletin (October 5, 1981): 2.


i. The Visual Sense

Vision is the most complex of the specialized senses and in some ways has proven to be the most difficult to determine as it relates to fetal visual acuity.250 Although the womb is quite dark, light can and does pass through to the fetus.251 Research has shown that from the 16th week on, the photo receptors in the fetal eye are sensitive to light.252 Flashing light applied to the maternal abdominal wall produces fluctuations in the fetal heart rate253 and will cause a startle response often followed by a turning-away of his head.254

Research done with premature infants has shown that the pupillary reflex is present and functions variably given the intensity of light present. The same response that occurs in utero to flashing light occurs in these premature infants, including changes in heart rate and the rate of respiration, the eye-blink reflex and the startle response often accompanied by "the eye-neck reflex involving a backward thrust of the head."255 The ability to both horizontally and vertically track movement has also been demonstrated in preterm babies between 31-32 weeks.256

As with the auditory sense, much research has been done on the visual abilities of newborn infants. The first few months of post-natal life bring about great maturation in vision, but even at birth, vision, movement and object perception are "coordinated, cross-modal and

250ChamberIain writes that "Paediatric texts about 20 years ago were reporting that newborns were virtually blind [ie. W.E. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics (Philadelphia: Sanders, 1964)]. We know now that the visual system is well advanced at birth, though not perfect. One reviewer commented that 'infants seem to acquire new visual abilities with each improvement in the ingenuity and methodology of the researchers."' (Chamberlain, "The Cognitive Newborn," 38 quoting J. Allik and J. Valsiner, "Visual Development in Ontogenesis: Some Reevaluations," In Advances in Child Development and Behavior, Vol.15, eds. H.W. Reese and LP. Upsitt New York: Academic Press, 1980]).

251 David R. Weaver and Steven M. Reppert, "Direct in utero Perception of Light by the Mammalian Fetus," Developmental Brain Research 47 (1989): 151-155. Liley also comments that ". . . with the high attenuation in tissue, the abnormal spectral composition and the boring view, what the foetus lacks is adequate illumination and a worthwhile image for practice in cone and macular vision." (Liley, "The Foetus as Personality," 198).

252H.F. Prechtl and J.G. Nijhuis, "Eye Movements in the Human Fetus and Newborn," Behavorial Braln Research 10 (1983): 119-124.

253C.N. Smythe, "Experimental Methods for Testing the Integrity of the Foetus and Neonate," Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the British Commonwealth 72 (1965): 920.

254Verny, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child, 39.

255Chamberlain, "The Cognitive Newborn," 38.

256L.M.S. Dubowtiz, V. Dubowtiz, A. Morante and M. Verghote, "Visual Function in the Preterm and Fullterm Newborn Infant," Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 22 (1980): 485-75.


meaningful."257 The newborn has only a 20/500258 visual capacity at birth,259 but he can still make out most of the features of his mothers face if she is 6-12 inches away and can spot the outline of a finger as far as 9 feet away.260 Infant acuity is "more or less adultlike" by 8 months.261 At birth the neonate will track attractive moving targets with their eyes.262 Likewise, enough rods and cones and present at birth to permit the perception of various colors and hues.263 Differential electroencephalograph responses indicate neonatal responses to different wavelengths in the color spectrum.264 Likewise, research has shown that infants as early as 1-2 weeks old indicate a rudimentary depth perception.265

257C. von Hofsten, "Foundations of Perceptual Development," in Advances in Infancy Research, Vol.2, eds. L.P. Upsitt and C.K. Rovee-Collier (Norwood, NJ: Ablex Books, 1983), 241-264.

258One study found visual acuity of 20/150 in a group of infants (most of whom were one day old) to a set of stripes moving through an 180-degree arc 14 inches away and a "following pattern" similar to adults expose to the same test. (G.O. Dayton, M. Jones, P. Aiu, P. Rawson, B. Steele, and M. Rose, "Developmental Study of Coordinated Eye Movements in the Human Infant: I. Visual Acuity in the Newborn Human: A Study Based on Induced Optokinetic Nystagmus Recorded by Electro-oculography," Archives of Opthamology 11(1964): 865-870.

259According to Verny, this means that a neonate "cannot see a tree half a football field away." (Verny, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child, 40.) Chamberlain writes that "one expert says newborn acuity is like that of a domestic cat." (Chamberlain, "The Mind of the Newborn," 8, quoting Allik and Valsiner, "Visual Development in Ontogenesis: Some Reevaluations.")

260Verny, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child, 40.

261A.M. Norcia and C.W. Tyler, "Spacial Frequency Weep VEP: Visual Acuity During the First Year of Ufe," Vision Research 25 (1965): 1399-1408.

262R.N. Aslin, "Development of Smooth Pursuit in Human Infants," in Eye Movements Cognition and Visual Perneption, eds. D.F. Fisher, R.A. Monty, and J.W. Senders (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Enbaum Associates, 1981); G. Dayton, M. Jones, B. Steel and M. Rose, "Developmental Study of Coordinated Eye Movements in the Human Infant: II. An Electro-oculographic Study of the Fixation Reflex in the Newborn," Archives of Opthamology 71(1964): 871-875; PH. Wolff and LW. White, "Visual Pursuit and Attention in Young Infants," Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry 4 (1965): 437-484.

263J.S. Werner and LP. Upsitt, "The Infancy of Human Sensory Systems," in Developmental Plasticity, ed. E.S. Gollin (New York: Academic Press, 1981), 35-8; V. Dobson, "Spectral Sensitivity of the 2-Month Infant as Measured by the Visually Evoked Cortical Potential," Vision Research 16 (1976): 367-374.

264Chamberlain, "The Mind of the Newborn," 9.

264W. Ball and E. Tronick, "Infant Responses to Impending Collision: Optical and Real," Science 171 (1971): 818-820; T.G.R. Bower, Development in Infancy (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman & Co, 1974); T.G.R. Bower, J.M. Broughton and M.K. Moore, "Infant Responses to Approaching Objects: An Indicator of Response to Distal Variables," Perceotion & Psvchophysics 9 (1970); T.G.R. Bower, J.M. Broughton and M.K. Moore, "Demonstration of Intention in the Reaching Behavior of Neonate Humans," Nature 228 (1970): 5272.


Research done with neonates as young as 10 hours old also indicates various preferences in their visualization. They prefer patterns to plainly colored surfaces266 as well as showing preferences for curved vs. straight lines, chromatic vs. achromatic stimuli, three-dimensional vs. two dimensional objects, complex vs. simple patterns, and faces vs. non- faces.267

Thus, to summarize the fetal period regarding the senses, deMause writes this regarding the 3rd to the 5th month:

The fetus . . . now floats peacefully, now kicks vigorously, turns somersaults, hiccoughs, sighs, urinates, swallows and breathes amniotic fluid and urine, sucks its thumb, fingers, toes, grabs its umbilicus, gets excited at sudden noises, calms down when the mother talks quietly, and gets rocked back to sleep as she walks about.268

By birth the summary of behavior is a little more elaborate, but not substantially. Chamberlain writes:

From the first minute after birth the newborn has the ability to suck, swallow, get rid of wastes, look, hear, taste, smell, turn the head, and signal for help.269 All sensory systems are functioning; many have been functioning for some time.270

j. Intermodal Fluency

As with so many of the other areas of fetology, the integrative capabilities of the fetus and the neonate between sense modalities have been grossly underestimated. Much of the research already cited assumes a certain level of intermodal fluency and coordination between the senses and motor movement. For instance, the fact that the auditory and visual systems work together with motor control when a neonate looks at the source of sound is evidence of

266R.L. Fantz, "The Origin of Form Perception," Scientific American, 204 (1961): 66-72; R.L Fantz, "Pattern Vision in Newborn Infants," Sci~fl~A 140 (1963): 298-297; R.L Fantz, "Visual Experience in Infants: Decreased Attention to Familiar Patterns Relative to Normal Ones," Science 146 (1964): 668-670; R.L. Fantz, "Visual Perception from Birth as Shown by Pattern Selectivity," Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 118 (1965): 793-814.

267L. B. Cohen, "Our Developing Knowledge of Infant Perception and Cognition," American Psychologistt 34 (1979): 894-899.

268deMause, Foundations of Psychohistory, 253.

269F. Caplan, The First Twelve Months of Life (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1973), 20.

270Chamberlain, Consciousness at Birth 6.


these capabilities.271 The same can be said of the fetus, with motor movement coordinated with the tactile, visual, auditory, gustatory, and olfactory sense modes.

Research on premature and full-term newborns specifically illustrates the capabilities that exist at birth, thus allowing for the tentative assumption that these capacities existed in some approximate form prior to birth. Many of the findings of the research studies cited above require motor and sense coordination. For instance, the ability to both horizontally and vertically track movement with the coordination of the visual and motor spheres in preterm babies between 31-32 weeks272 indicates this ability so that at birth, vision, movement and object perception are "coordinated, cross-modal and meaningful."273

Sander's research274 between newborns and their fathers showed, utilizing slow motion film, that motor synchrony with the visual sense mode took place to allow for anticipation of movement. As fathers moved their heads to look down at the neonate, the babies head and eyes began to look up. This occurred repeatedly, as did the synchrony of the father's and infant's hands. When the father's right hand moved up, the neonates left hand moved up and grabbed the father's finger.

Using frame-by-frame microanalysis of the body movements of newborns as they relate to adult speech patterns shows that infant movement became synchronized with adult speech, whether live or recorded, whether English or Chinese. Newborns did not react in the same way either to the broadcast of pure tones in a simulation of the rate of human speech or to a babble of disconnected vowel sounds.275

All 16 newborns in the study acted similarly, continuing to move through speeches of up to 125 words in length. Given the sophistication of this behavior, Condon has concluded that at birth the neonate has "an ability to steadily track auditory speech variations with almost as great an ability as that of an adult."276

In an experiment using smooth and nubby pacifiers, Meltzoff and Borton277 illustrated the transfer of information from one modality (tactile) to another (visual). A pacifier of the smooth or nubby variety was placed in the mouth of blindfolded newborns who were later able to identify by sight the type of pacifier which had been in their mouths. Other research278 on newborn operant learning has connected head movement with the delivery of a squirt of milk if a bell sounded, thus linking the interoceptive, gustatory and auditory modalities.

These researchers have concluded that learning and other such "conceptualizations"279 by their very nature are cross-modal and have stated that "in natural situations, stimulations effecting the newborn are almost by principle 'plurimodal', not only visual and auditory, but also tactual, thermal, olfactory, vestibular, and kinesthetic."280

Thus the conclusion is that the qualities of perception, learning, and memory are implied . . . (which infer] such integrative processes [as] sensory awareness, information processing, the organization of adaptive, behavioral responses, cognition, affect and memory--an integration basic to all interactions with the environment."281

Beyond the evidence for the existence of the morphological "hardware" for movement and sense perception is the evidence that these capabilities allow for the - processes of learning, habituation, conditioning, memory, affect, dreaming, cognition, and self- expression. And indeed, the existence of these capabilities in the fetal period allows for the inference of a still "higher-level" organization of them into what might tentatively be called "consciousness", or even a "psychology".

271Bower, Development in Infancy.

272Dubowtiz, Dubowtiz, Morante and Verghote, "Visual Function in the Preterm and Fullterm Newborn Infant," 465-75.

273Von Hofsten, "Foundations of Perceptual Development," 241-264.

274L. Sander, "New Knowledge About the Infant From Current Research: Implications for Psychoanalysis," Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association28 (1980): 181-198.

275William Condon, "A Primary Phase in the Organization of Infant Responding," in Studies in Mother-Infant Interaction, ed. H.R. Schaffer (New York: Academic Press, 1977), 153-176; William Condon and Louis Sander, "Neonate Movement is Synchronized with Adult Speech: Interactional Participation and Language Acquisition," Science 183 (1974): 99-101.

276Condon, "A Primary Phase in the Organization of Infant Responding," 187.

277A. Meltzoff and W. Borton, "Intermodal Matching by Human Neonates," Nature 282 (1979): 403-404.

278H. Papousek, "Experimental Studies of Appetitional Behavior in Human Newborns and Infants," in iEarly Behavior: Comparative and Developmental Approaches, eds. H.W. , eds. H.W. Stevenson, E.H. Hess, and Rheingold (New York: John Wiley, 1967), 249-277; H. Papousek, "Individual Variability in Learned Responses in Human Infants," in Brain and Early Behavior, ed. R.J. Robinson (London: Academic Press, 1969); H. Papousek and M.Papousek, "Mothering and the Cognitive Head-Start: Psychobiological Considerations," in Studies in Mother-Infant lnteraction, ed. H.R. Schaffer (London: Academic Press, 1977): Chapter 4.

279For instance, Liley writes regarding the concept of sensory space: "The subject has received some much-needed simplification by the evidence that the various sensory modalities all feed and share a common space, and that this space in fact is the effective motor space. . . . When does such a concept of space begin? Refined experiment on the neonate suggests that his sensory space is a little ball, that although he may receive visual and auditory signals from more distant sources he is not much interested in anything outside the sphere which extends just beyond his toes - a restriction which very neatly corresponds to his recently vacated home." (Liley, "The Foetus as Personality," 200).

280H. Papousek and M. Papousek, "Integration into the Social World: Survey of Research," in Psychobiology of the Human Newborn, ed. P.M. Stratton (New York: John Wiley, 1982), 367-390.

281H. Papousek and M. Papousek. "Intuitive Parenting: A Didactic Counterpart to the Infant's Precocity in Integrative Capacities." Handbook of Infant Development, 2nd ed. ed. J. Osofsky (New York: John Wiley, 1987); cited in Chamberlain, "Consciousness at Birth," 42.

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