What were you doing for the 38 weeks before you were born? A hell of a lot actually, according to Professor Peter Hepper at Queen‚Äôs University, Belfast, who‚Äôs written about the nascent field of fetal psychology in the latest issue of The Psychologist magazine.
The article is packed full of fascinating observations including the fact that the fetus demonstrates handedness by 10 weeks of gestation ‚Äì before any signs of hemispheric asymmetry, thus suggesting a predilection for movements on one side might lead to brain lateralisation, rather than the other way around.
Hepper also mentions the controversy surrounding whether or not the fetus feels pain. Of course it can‚Äôt be asked, but by 23 weeks gestation, the fetus does show a biochemical stress response to a needle puncture (during a blood transfusion), which suggests it hurt.
Doctors have no way of directly assessing the brain function of a fetus, but advances in fetal psychology mean aberrant patterns of behaviour can increasingly be used to identify neural problems the fetus may have.
The article is locked to subscribers but will be freely available after six months.