Fetal Behaviour: A Neurodevelopmental Approach [With CDROM]


Clinics in Developmental Medicine No. 189

Fetal behaviour and movements not only give an insight into the developing brain, as an expression of neural activity, but are also necessary for the further development of neural structure and of other organs. This book presents an account of our current understanding of fetal behaviour as obtained through the assessment of fetal movements and behavioural states. The approach is based on the premises of developmental neurology, and ...

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Fetal Behaviour: A Neurodevelopmental Approach

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Clinics in Developmental Medicine No. 189

Fetal behaviour and movements not only give an insight into the developing brain, as an expression of neural activity, but are also necessary for the further development of neural structure and of other organs. This book presents an account of our current understanding of fetal behaviour as obtained through the assessment of fetal movements and behavioural states. The approach is based on the premises of developmental neurology, and provides important clues for the recognition of the age-specific functional repertoire of the nervous system. The companion DVD contains 26 movies using both ultrasound and dynamic MRI to illustrate the text.
After presenting the historical background, the authors describe in detail the patterns of fetal movements and the mechanisms underlying them: They then discuss determinants of fetal behaviour, explaining the impact of different pregnancy-related and maternal factors on behaviour. Other chapters describe important aspects such as fetal responsiveness, laterality and development of handedness, and the behaviour of twins. The final chapter reviews research on the effects of various neurological conditions on fetal behaviour. The ability to assess the functional condition of the nervous system is invaluable to the clinician, as a considerable percentage of early brain damage is of prenatal origin.

The structured and standardized description of fetal behavioural patterns proposed in this book improves our ability to understand the mechanisms underlying various aspects of behaviour in healthy fetuses and in those with brain lesions or other risk factors. Because of this, the volume will be of great interest not only to researchers in this field but also to all of those working in neonatology, paediatrics and paediatric neurology.

Readership: Researchers in this field, neonatologists, paediatricians, paediatric neurologists, neurophysiologists, neuroscientists, obstetricians

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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Jay P. Goldsmith, MD (Tulane University School of Medicine)
Description: Part of a series about fetal and neonatal development sponsored by the Clinics in Developmental Medicine, this book reviews the contemporary knowledge about fetal behavior and includes a DVD with 26 videos using both ultrasound and MRI to demonstrate movement and activity of the fetus and newborn. Although meant for scientists studying fetal behavior, the book is appropriate for clinicians in its exploration of pregnancy-related factors and their effects on fetal and neonatal outcome and development.
Purpose: The book is based on the premise that fetal behavior and function will have significant effects on later postnatal development. Since behavior is an expression of neuronal development, then fetal behavior may give insight into the developing brain. These are worthy objectives, even at this early stage of research. The tools to investigate these behavioral changes are relatively crude at this time, but the promise of future research and potential interventional therapy makes this a fascinating book.
Audience: It is aimed primarily at scientists in the fields of behavioral psychology and physiology, but certain aspects have correlations to clinical situations such as fetal monitoring through biophysical profiles and fetal heart monitoring. The authors are an Austrian physiologist and a radiologist from major medical centers.
Features: After a historical review of observations of fetal behavior, the book describes fetal movements and their mechanisms, determinants of fetal behavior, behavior in twins and laterality or handedness. The book ends with a discussion of the functional assessment of the fetal nervous system. As a clinician I was most interested in the relationship of fetal states to the well-known Prechtl states and quality of movement that are taught to every pediatric resident. The beautiful and clear videos on the DVD are a wonderful addition.
Assessment: This unique book brings together several decades of research on fetal behavior. Although it will mainly be of interest to behavioral researchers, it has clinical applicability to obstetricians, neonatologists, and pediatric neurologists. As the puzzle of the developing brain is explored, this book will add some understanding of the mechanisms and assessment of development of normal and abnormal behavior.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Christa Einspieler has been working in behavioural analysis for over 20 years. She is currently Associate Professor in Physiology at the Medical University of Graz. Her main research topics are the ontogeny of behaviour, fetal movements, motor development in preterm, term and young infants, age-specific neurological assessments, neurolinguistics, and development of laterality. She is author or co-author of more than 70 scientific papers in indexed journals, and has contributed to more than 20 books from international publishers.

Daniela Prayer is Professor of Neuroradiology at Vienna Medical School and Director of the Clinical Department of Neuroradiology and Musculoskeletal Radiology at the University Clinic of Radio Diagnostics, one of the worldwide leading centres of prenatal MRI. She is a member of the board of the Austrian Society of Perinatology as well as the International Society of Prenatal Diagnosis. Her research focuses on epilepsy, brain tumours, degenerative diseases and diffusion tensor imaging (measuring the diffusion movement of water molecules in body tissue using MRI) of peripheral nerves.

Heinz Prechtl was a pioneer in the evaluation of the quality of spontaneous movements during early human development. He discovered that the quality of spontaneous general movements in the fetus and young infant could provide information on the integrity of the young nervous system. His approach to the qualitative assessment of general movements in newborn infants is a widely used, highly sensitive and specific tool in the prediction of neurological impairments.

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Table of Contents


1. Observation of fetal behaviour.

2. Spontaneous motor behaviour.

3. Prenatal laterality.

4. Behavioural states.

5. Fetal responsiveness.

6. Fetal behaviour in twins.

7. Determinants of fetal behaviour.

8. Functional assessment of the nervous system and its relevance to clinical syndromes.


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