Heel prick pain perceived in babies born at term

BABIES begin to recognise pain just before they are born, a study suggests.

Researchers have discovered babies learn to tell the difference between pain and touch from around the 35th to 37th week of pregnancy.

Scientists measured the brain waves of 25 normal term and 21 premature babies to look for differences in activity.

As the EEG recordings were made, the infants had their heels lanced.

Among premature babies, the heel lances produced general bursts of electrical activity in the brain. But after 35–37 weeks, the babies' response switched to localised activity in specific brain areas.

This showed they were perceiving pain stimulation as an experience separate from touch, said the scientists.

Dr Lorenzo Fabrizi, from University College London, who led the research, said: "We are asking a fundamental question about human development in this study: when do babies start to distinguish between