Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 27th 2014 Contents A48
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt July 27, 2014
Babies in the womb show evidence of learning
by their 34th week, three weeks earlier than pre-
viously thought, new research has found.
"It really pushed the envelope" in terms of how
early babies begin to learn, lead researcher Charlene
Krueger, associate professor at the University of Flori-
da's College of Nursing, said last Thursday.
The study, published in the journal Infant Behavior
and Development, followed 32 women from their
28th through 38th weeks of pregnancy in an inves-
tigation to pinpoint when the ability to learn emerges.
Krueger had the women repeat three times out
loud a set 15-second nursery rhyme, and do it twice
a day for six weeks. The selected rhyme was previously
unknown to the mothers.
The fetuses' heart rates were monitored at 32, 33
and 34 weeks as they listened to a recording of a
female stranger recite the rhyme.
By the 34th week, Krueger said, the heart rates of
the tested fetuses showed an overall slight decline
while listening to the recording, compared with a
control group of fetuses whose heart rates slightly
accelerated while listening to a recording of a new
Krueger said a decelerating heartbeat has long been
associated with a fetus recognising something familiar,
compared with an accelerated heartbeat response to
a novel sound or experience.
"We cautiously concluded, because it was not sta-
tistically significant, that learning emerged by 34
weeks gestational age," she said.
Babies in womb may start learning
earlier than thought---study
At that point, the mothers stopped reciting
the rhyme to their babies who were tested
again at 36 and 38 weeks.
"At 38 weeks we confidently concluded
the fetus could remember the rhythm of that
nursery rhyme, which was four weeks after
the mother stopped reciting the rhyme,"
"The deeper and more prolonged response
(at 38 weeks), the more confident I felt that
learning had gone on," she said.
Krueger said the findings have implications
for the care of pre-term babies in neonatal
units. She said she next wants to experiment
with placing recordings of the mothers' voices
in the babies' cribs so they will benefit from
positive impacts of their mothers' voices.
"What it really shows is how sophisticated
the interaction is between a mother and her
infant," she said. (Reuters)
In the first broad-scale estimate of air pol-
lution removal by trees nationwide, US Forest
Service scientists and collaborators calculated
that trees are saving more than 850 human
lives a year and preventing 670,000 incidents
of acute respiratory symptoms.
While trees' pollution removal equated to an
average air quality improvement of less than one
per cent, the impacts of that improvement are
substantial. Researchers valued the human health
effects of the reduced air pollution at nearly US$7
billion every year in a study published recently
in the journal Environmental Pollution.
The study by Dave Nowak and Eric Greenfield
of the US Forest Service's Northern Research
Station and Satoshi Hirabayashi and Allison Bod-
ine of the Davey Institute is unique in that it
directly links the removal of air pollution with
improved human health effects and associated
health values. The scientists found that pollution
removal is substantially higher in rural areas than
urban areas, however the effects on human health
are substantially greater in urban areas than rural
The study considered four pollutants for which
the US EPA has established air quality standards:
nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and par-
ticulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) in
aerodynamic diameter. Health effects related to
air pollution include impacts on pulmonary, car-
diac, vascular, and neurological systems. In the
United States, approximately 130,000 PM2.5-
related deaths and 4,700 ozone-related deaths
in 2005 were attributed to air pollution.
Trees' benefits vary with tree cover across the
nation. Tree cover in the United States is estimated
at 34.2 per cent but varies from 2.6 per cent in
North Dakota to 88.9 per cent in New Hamp-
The study Tree and Forest Effects on Air Quality
and Human Health in the United States is available
online at: http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/46102
Trees save lives
What it really shows is how
sophisticated the interaction is
between a mother and her infant.
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