Neurobehavioral assessment before birth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The complexities of neurobehavioral assessment of the fetus, which can be neither directly viewed nor manipulated, cannot be understated. Impetus to develop methods for measuring fetal neurobehavioral development has been provided by the recognition that individual differences in neurobehavioral functioning do not originate with birth and acceptance of the key contribution of the antenatal period to postnatal life. Research has centered around four aspects of fetal functioning: heart rate, motor activity, behavioral state, and responsivity to stimulation. Longitudinal studies have revealed that the developmental trajectories of these characteristics parallel the developing nervous system, detected a transitional period between 28 and 32 weeks gestation, and established within-fetal stability during the second half of gestation. Despite the promise of fetal stimulation and habituation paradigms as measures of neural functioning, significant safety and ethical concerns exist. Construction of a unified fetal neurobehavioral scale is premature until a sufficient degree of normative data is available and the predictive validity of specific aspects of fetal neurobehavior to child developmental outcomes is better established.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-13
Number of pages10
JournalMental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005


  • Fetal assessment
  • Fetal heart rate
  • Fetal movement
  • Fetus
  • Neurobehavior
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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