May 18, 2005
Baby Cry Analysis Detects Neurological Problems

Qualities of a baby's cry can point to a number of neurological problems.

In a research review in the current issue of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, Linda LaGasse, PhD, and Barry Lester, PhD, with the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center (BHCRC) and Brown Medical School looked at previous studies that analyzed the acoustics of a baby's cry. The authors cite the characteristics of a cry that can indicate problems in a baby's nervous system, as well as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Changes in frequency, amplitude, length of cries, and resonance provide useful information for detecting diseases and disorders.

Overall, studies have repeatedly shown that infants at medical risk (like premature babies), and infants who have been exposed to lead or drugs, cry at a higher and more variable frequency than normal, but at lower amplitude, and with short utterances. These types of cry signals point toward a capacity problem in the respiratory system as well as an increased tension and instability of neural control of the vocal tract.

High resonance combined with mode changes indicate greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

These results cry out for practical application. Some sound analysis software developed for a personal computer combined with a microphone plugged into a computer port would let mom check out her baby's cries for risk factors.

If the sound of a baby's cry has diagnostic value then might the same be true for the sound of an adult's conversational voice or an adult's singing voice or perhaps for a scream made to check voice quality?

This result reminds me of recent reports on the uses of saliva and breath for disease diagnosis. The development of less invasive means of testing for diseases will allow humans to be continually monitored for disease indicators without the risk of x-ray exposure, trips to doctors' offices to get blood samples, or other more invasive, time consuming, expensive, and risky methods of testing.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2005 May 18 05:57 AM  Brain Development

toot said at May 18, 2005 9:58 AM:

Seems to me that the report is of sufficient seriousness that we could do without the terrible puns in the third from last paragraph.

Lei said at May 19, 2005 3:14 AM:

These results would be no surprise to experienced parents who know that a baby's cry varies depending on what emotional state they're in. The difficulty with assessing a baby's cry is that each child is unique. With no baseline information for a child, a computer program would most likely be highly inaccurate.

metamind said at May 19, 2005 1:49 PM:

Not unknown in paediatric departments where the high-pitched 'cerebral'cry has been known for years and is well recognised; think of 'cri du chat syndrome' Babies with meningitis can often be picked up by this suble though distinct sign; however I am not aware of a systematic study or evaluation and that might just be very helpful for diagnosis and/or monitoring.

M. Simon said at May 23, 2005 3:14 PM:

The only drug, so far, proven to cause problems in children is alcohol.

What few peer reviewed studies that have been done on other drugs (excepting tobacco I believe) shows no effect or transient effects. For tobacco the effect is small. For alcohol (given sufficient dose) the effect is large.

So why are tthe two most dangerous drugs legal?

Well that is a very long story. It starts with racism.

Drug War History.

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