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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: 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.