Scientists in a new study have discovered that hiccups in babies, caused by sudden contractions of the diaphragm, trigger electrical activity in the brain which could help infants learn breathing regulation.
A brand-new study published by researchers from the Department of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology of University College London found that hiccups in babies, caused by sudden contractions of the diaphragm, trigger electrical activity in the brain which could help infants learn breathing regulation.
In 13 infants on the neonatal ward (30–42 weeks corrected gestational age), researchers analysed electroencephalography (EEG) activity (18-electrode recordings in six subjects; 17-electrode recordings in five subjects; 16-electrode recordings in two subjects), time-locked to diaphragm contractions (n = 1316) recorded with a movement transducer affixed to the trunk.
Research paper titled “Event-related potentials following contraction of respiratory muscles in pre-term and full-term infants” stated that the infants brain activity was recorded with electrodes attached to the scalp, while hiccuping movements were assessed with sensors on the babies’ torso.
According to researchers, all the bouts of hiccups occurred during wakefulness or active sleep. Each diaphragm contraction evoked two initial event-related potentials with negativity predominantly across the central region, and a third event-related potential with positivity maximal across the central region.
Researchers stated that involuntary contraction of the diaphragm can be encoded by the brain from as early as ten weeks prior to the average time of birth.
They found in their study that hiccups – frequent in neonates – provide afferent input to the developing brain.