MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Scott A. Adler, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Coordinator
Developmental Science Graduate Program Dept. of Psychology & Centre for Vision Research
Visual and Cognitive Development Project
Toronto, Ontario Canada
Medical Research: What is the background for this study?
Dr. Adler: Experiences that we have early in life clearly have an impact on our brain development and behavior as we get older. Numerous studies have detailed these experiences, ranging from how we were fed as a baby to how many languages we hear to traumatic events. These experiences have been shown to influence formation, maintenance, and pruning of the networks of synaptic connections in our brain’s that impact all manner of thought and behavior. Yet, the impact of one of the earliest experiences, that of being born, on brain and psychological behavior has not before been explored. A recent study with rat pups has strongly suggested that the birth process has a definite impact on initial brain development. If that is the case, what happens if the infant’s birth is one in which she does not experience the natural birth process, such as occurs with caesarean section births?
Medical Research: What are the main findings?
Dr. Adler: There were two main findings from this study. We measured the speed and timing of infants’ saccadic eye movements, which are overt indicators of attention, relative to the onset of visual events on a computer monitor. Moving attention and eye movements can occur through two general classes of processes. The first is bottom-up mechanisms in which attention is moved reactively and automatically to the appearance or existence of unique and salient events in the world. In this case, where attention goes is essentially controlled by the events in the world.
The second is top-down mechanisms in which we move attention voluntarily to what we determine to be relevant event in the world based on our own cognitive biases and goals.
This study found that 3-month-old infants born by caesarean section were significantly slower to move attention and make eye movements in reaction to the occurrence of visual events on the basis of bottom-up mechanisms than were infants born vaginally. In contrast, there was difference between infants in moving attention and making eye movements in anticipation of the appearance of visual events on the basis of top-down mechanisms. Additionally, maternal age, which has been shown to be related to the occurrence of caesarean sections, was found not to be related to the current effects.