Tokyo: Premature babies are more likely to show lack of interest in social skills than infants born full-term, reveals a study adding that such babies are at higher risk of developing autism.
The findings showed that premature birth is linked to lack of development of social communication skills, which ultimately leads to autism.
Premature babies show a different attentional pattern, showing less interest in other people.
“We hope that studies like ours contribute to earlier diagnoses, so that we can offer appropriate support at as early a stage as possible,” said one of the researchers Myowa-Yamakoshi from Kyoto University in Japan.
The nervous systems of preterm babies may develop differently compared to infants born full-term during their first year of life, the researchers said in the study published in the journal Infancy.
The team, in the first part of the study, simultaneously displayed videos showing people and geometric patterns to six to 12-month old infants to test which videos the infants preferred.
The researchers said that the infants’ gaze show interest — the more time spent looking at people means more interest in others.
They found that premature infants stared less at the people but were more interested in the shapes. Full-term babies spent more time looking at the people in the video rather than at the shapes.
Additionally, the researchers also observe how well the full-term babies follow people’s eye directions.
Following eye directions also indicate interest, understanding others as well as aiding in language acquisition. On the other hand, premature infants showed difficulty in following their gazes.
Preterm birth incidence is rising in developed countries like Japan, since people increasingly give birth at an older age, and given assumed risks with IVF.