A new computer programme, which has been developed to analyse a baby’s cry, is hoped to be used to help doctors detect conditions and determine appropriate treatment earlier than before.
A cry is controlled by cranial nerves, so can be a useful indicator for what is happening in the brain.
The programme, developed by researchers at Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, breaks cries down into 12.5 millisecond frames and analyses volume and pitch, among 80 other parameters.
Researchers aren’t yet able to link cry characteristics with specific illnesses, but they have found that an infant’s cry is affected by exposure to alcohol in the womb, birth injuries and even autism.
This is not the first programme of its kind to evaluate the characteristics of a baby’s cry, but researchers say this automated analyser will result in a more detailed and faster process.
“We can start right at birth,” says Philip Zeskind, director of neurodevelopmental research at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“The analysis of crying can tell you if there’s something wrong with the baby’s nervous system even in the absence of routine signs on physical and neurological exams.”
Researchers hope to make the programme available world-wide to analyse crying patterns that aren’t detectable by the human ear.