Perinatal Origins of Infant Social Responsiveness Grant

Perinatal Origins of Infant Social Responsiveness .


  • In this project, Dr. Lickliter will examine whether and to what extent prenatal sensory experience contributes to the emergence and development of postnatal social responsiveness. Although social responsiveness is a fundamental characteristic of human infant behavior and supports emotional, cognitive, and language development, little is currently known about the possible roles of prenatal sensory experience in neonatal social behavior. As a result of this gap in our knowledge, some developmental scientists have suggested that infant social responsiveness is innate, independent of prior experience. Our lack of knowledge in this area is due in part to the very restricted prenatal manipulations possible with human fetuses. Working with an animal model, the bobwhite quail, Dr. Lickliter and his research team have previously shown that prenatal sensory experience plays a key role in establishing postnatal perceptual preferences in the neonate. This research project will extend this work to determine what types of prenatal experiences facilitate the emergence of early social skills, including social orienting, social contingency detection and learning, and the ability for individual recognition of social partners. By comparing quail chicks who received modified prenatal sensory experience with chicks who received typical patterns of prenatal sensory experience, this project will uncover what types and amounts of prenatal experience promote or interfere with the development of neonatal social responsiveness. The findings of this project will provide a foundation for understanding the relationship between prenatal experience and postnatal behavior and will inform research directions for human-based studies of early perceptual, cognitive, and social development.The results of this work will allow better integration of the prenatal period into current theories of both typical and atypical behavioral development. For example, the findings obtained can inform the care and management of preterm infants, who make up 12% of births in the US and are at risk for atypical perceptual, cognitive, and social outcomes as a result of being deprived of normal patterns of prenatal sensory experience. The project will also provide multiple training opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students from ethnically diverse backgrounds. The results of this work will be broadly disseminated in presentations at conferences, colloquia, journal publications, and book chapters.

date/time interval

  • June 15, 2011 - May 31, 2015

sponsor award ID

  • 1057898