Health Check: Analyzing babies' cries - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

Health Check: Analyzing babies' cries

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A baby's cry -- it's something that often causes a parent to come running.

But what does the child need? Can doctors shed some light?

"When it comes to sort of parenting, we actually want to back off and reinforce that parents should use their intuitions," said Dr. Stephen Sheinkopf, a researcher at Women & Infants Hospital.

But your baby's cry could offer clues into his or her future health.

Sheinkopf helped develop a new tool along with acoustic engineers at Brown University. It's an acoustic cry analyzer.

"The specific thing that we're interested in here is how to detect early risk for developmental conditions, developmental disorders such as autism and other conditions," he said.

The concept isn't new.

"There's been a long standing history of analyzing babies' cries as an early neurological or neurodevelopmental health in babies," Sheinkopf said.

But the way it's being done now is new.

"We think the pain cries are valuable because when a baby is in that state, it arouses their nervous system," Sheinkopf said.

And depending on the pitch and other acoustic features, researchers believe they can determine early on if the baby will develop autism or other developmental delays. The cries are measured in milliseconds, and since it's automated, the cries can be evaluated in more detail and more efficiently.

"We have a paper that we published last year using an old version of a cry analysis system that showed babies who are diagnosed with autism produce cries differently when we recorded their cries at six months of age," Sheinkopf said.

The research is being funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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