C-section could impact baby’s ability to focus: York U study

There can be a difference in how well babies focus attention on an object of interest, depending on whether they were delivered by natural birth or caesarean section (C-section), a recent York University study indicates.

“Our research has revealed that being born by a C-section slows a baby’s spatial attention, which plays a role in its ability to focus on a particular area or object of interest,” says Professor Scott Adler in York University’s Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health.

Professor Scott Adler is behind a research project that looks at the difference in how well babies focus attention on an object of interest, depending on whether they were delivered by natural birth or caesarean section

Professor Scott Adler is behind a research project that looks at the difference in how well babies focus attention on an object of interest, depending on whether they were delivered by natural birth or caesarean section

According to Adler and his co-researcher Audrey Wong Kee-You, very little was known about how the birth experience influences a baby’s psychological and brain development, though earlier studies have shown that factors such as birth weight and the mother’s age impact child development.

Another key finding of the study, Differential Attentional Responding in Caesarean versus Vaginally Delivered Infants, published online in Springer’s journal Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, is that there is no difference in the way a baby’s voluntary attention is diverted to an object of interest. That is, both an infant born vaginally and an infant born by C-section decide to look at a new object, alike.

For the study, 34 infants were presented with two types of object selection tasks to measure the latency of eye movements in hundreds of milliseconds. In a 30-minute session, the infants were on their backs with the stimuli above them on a screen, while infrared light tracked their eye movements.

According to Adler, these are very important findings considering there is a steady increase in the number of caesarean sections. He also adds that further research into this attention difference by examining whether the caesarean was due to birthing complications or by choice, and whether it has a long-term impact, will offer insight into the reason for differences in spatial attention in children.

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