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'Cry Analyzer' Helps Decipher Babies Cries

Jul 15, 2013 05:03 PM EDT | By Staff Reporter

Ever wished your baby would come with a little gadget that would tell you what he needs? A new tool devised by researchers at Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital in the U.S. have devised a "cry analyzer" to detect slight variations in cries, mostly imperceptible to the human ear, but that serve as a "window into the brain."

The "cry analyzer" is a computer program that assesses simple audio recordings of an infant's cry for their frequency components, according to paper published Monday in the  Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research. The computer program can pin point differences that are not heard by the human ear.

"It's a non-invasive way to possibly understand whether an infant is at-risk for later developmental problems, particularly autism," said Stephen Sheinkopf, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University who helped develop the tool and co-authored the paper.

The new tool also helps measure the "health status of babies in the newborn period," he said. "For example, whether or not they're experiencing pain after certain procedures in the hospital. Pain-related cries sound different than non-pain cries."

"There are lots of conditions that might manifest in differences in cry acoustics," Sheinkopf continued.  "For instance, babies with birth trauma or brain injury as a result of complications in pregnancy or birth or babies who are extremely premature can have ongoing medical effects. Cry analysis can be a non-invasive way to get a measurement of these disruptions in the neurobiological and neurobehavioral systems in very young babies."

How long will it take for parents to be able to get their hands on this technology? Researchers say it currently just geared for doctors and medical researchers.  For now, it is targeted for babies who are up to 6 or 9 months old.

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