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Welcome to The Visible Embryo, a comprehensive educational resource on human development from conception to birth.

The Visible Embryo provides visual references for changes in fetal development throughout pregnancy and can be navigated via fetal development or maternal changes.

The National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development awarded Phase I and Phase II Small Business Innovative Research Grants to develop The Visible Embryo. Initally designed to evaluate the internet as a teaching tool for first year medical students, The Visible Embryo is linked to over 600 educational institutions and is viewed by more than one million visitors each month.

Today, The Visible Embryo is linked to over 600 educational institutions and is viewed by more than 1 million visitors each month. The field of early embryology has grown to include the identification of the stem cell as not only critical to organogenesis in the embryo, but equally critical to organ function and repair in the adult human. The identification and understanding of genetic malfunction, inflammatory responses, and the progression in chronic disease, begins with a grounding in primary cellular and systemic functions manifested in the study of the early embryo.

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Pregnancy Timeline by SemestersFetal liver is producing blood cellsHead may position into pelvisBrain convolutions beginFull TermWhite fat begins to be madeWhite fat begins to be madeHead may position into pelvisImmune system beginningImmune system beginningPeriod of rapid brain growthBrain convolutions beginLungs begin to produce surfactantSensory brain waves begin to activateSensory brain waves begin to activateInner Ear Bones HardenBone marrow starts making blood cellsBone marrow starts making blood cellsBrown fat surrounds lymphatic systemFetal sexual organs visibleFinger and toe prints appearFinger and toe prints appearHeartbeat can be detectedHeartbeat can be detectedBasic Brain Structure in PlaceThe Appearance of SomitesFirst Detectable Brain WavesA Four Chambered HeartBeginning Cerebral HemispheresFemale Reproductive SystemEnd of Embryonic PeriodEnd of Embryonic PeriodFirst Thin Layer of Skin AppearsThird TrimesterSecond TrimesterFirst TrimesterFertilizationDevelopmental Timeline
CLICK ON weeks 0 - 40 and follow along every 2 weeks of fetal development
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Home | Pregnancy Timeline | News Alerts |News Archive Oct 2, 2014

Rutgers research has found that 4-month-old babies could learn to pay attention to complex
non-language audio patterns by rewarding them with a colorful video when they shifted
their eyes at every slight sound change.




WHO Child Growth Charts

 

 

 

Improving language before a baby can speak

In the first four months of life, babies begin to distinguish language sounds from all other sounds. According to new research, it might be possible to train infants to recognize sounds that "might" be language more effectively.

A study by April Benasich and colleagues at Rutgers University-Newark published on October 1 in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that 4-month-old babies could learn to pay attention to complex non-language sound patterns by rewarding them with a colorful video when they shifted their eyes at every slight sound change. This research could help build brain maps critical to acquiring and processing language.

Brain scans of 7 month olds showed these same babies were faster and more accurate at detecting complex non-language sounds (important to language development) when compared to babies who had not been exposed to complex audio patterns.


"Young babies are constantly scanning the environment to identify sounds that might be language. This is one of their key jobs between 4 and 7 months of age as they set up pre-linguistic acoustic brain maps.

"We gently guided the babies' brains to focus on the sensory inputs which are most meaningful to the formation of such brain maps."


April Benasich, Director, Infancy Studies Laboratory, University Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Rutgers University.


Acoustic maps are pools of interconnected brain cells in the infant brain which allow it to decode language quickly and automatically. Well formed maps allow faster and more accurate language processing, a function critical to cognitive functioning. Benasich says babies of this particular age are ideal for this kind of training.


"If you help shape sound identification while the baby is building networks, each infant may become able to maximize their auditory network for his/her particular brain — providing a stronger language (or languages) foundation. We want babies' to automatically recognise any language-specific sound they hear."

April Benasich, PhD


Benasich believes she was able to accelerate and optimize the construction of babies' acoustic maps, by rewarding the babies with a brief colorful video when they responded to changes in the rapidly varying sound patterns. The sound changes could be just tens of milliseconds, becomming more complex as training progressed.

"While playing this fun game we convey the concept: 'Pay attention to this. This is important,'" says Benasich. "This learning procedure helps the baby to focus tightly on sounds in the environment that 'may' have critical information about the language they are learning. Previous research has verified that accurate processing of tens-of-milliseconds differences in sound, while in infancy, is highly predictive of the child's language skills at 3, 4 and 5 years."

The experiment has the potential to provide lasting benefits. EEG (electroencephalogram) scans showed babies' brains processed sound patterns with increasing efficiency at 7 months of age — after six weekly training sessions. The research team will follow these infants through 18 months of age to see whether they retain and build upon these abilities with no further training. That outcome would suggest to Benasich that once the child's earliest acoustic maps are formed in the most optimal way, sound patterns will endure.


Benasich believes this training has the potential to advance the development of typically developing babies as well as children at higher risk for developmental language difficulties.


For parents who think this sound training might turn their babies into geniuses, the answer is – not necessarily. Benasich compares the process of enhancing acoustic maps to some people's desire to be taller. "There's a genetic range to how tall you become – perhaps you have the capacity to be 5'6" to 5'9,"' she explains. "If you get the right amounts and types of food, the right environment, the right exercise, you might get to 5'9" but you wouldn't be 6 feet. The same principle applies here."

Benasich feels it's very likely that one day parents will be able to use an interactive toy-like device – now under development – to mirror what she accomplished in the baby lab and maximize their babies' potential at home.


For the 8 to 15 percent of infants at highest risk for poor acoustic processing and subsequent delayed language, this baby-friendly behavioral intervention could have far-reaching implications and may offer the promise of improving or perhaps preventing language difficulties.


Abstract
Musicians are often reported to have enhanced neurophysiological functions, especially in the auditory system. Musical training is thought to improve nervous system function by focusing attention on meaningful acoustic cues, and these improvements in auditory processing cascade to language and cognitive skills. Correlational studies have reported musician enhancements in a variety of populations across the life span. In light of these reports, educators are considering the potential for co-curricular music programs to provide auditory-cognitive enrichment to children during critical developmental years. To date, however, no studies have evaluated biological changes following participation in existing, successful music education programs. We used a randomized control design to investigate whether community music participation induces a tangible change in auditory processing. The community music training was a longstanding and successful program that provides free music instruction to children from underserved backgrounds who stand at high risk for learning and social problems. Children who completed 2 years of music training had a stronger neurophysiological distinction of stop consonants, a neural mechanism linked to reading and language skills. One year of training was insufficient to elicit changes in nervous system function; beyond 1 year, however, greater amounts of instrumental music training were associated with larger gains in neural processing. We therefore provide the first direct evidence that community music programs enhance the neural processing of speech in at-risk children, suggesting that active and repeated engagement with sound changes neural function.
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