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Adult sensory capacities as a function of birth risk factors Harland, Renata E.


This study examined the relationship between the events surrounding one's birth and subsequent sensory capacity in adulthood. Data was extracted from the Human Neuropsychology and Perception Laboratory Data Bank at the University of British Columbia to determine whether mild birth risk factors have an impact on adult sensory capacities. The final sample consisted of 716 female and 529 male participants (mean age = 19.9) for whom both an indication of birth stress and at least one measure of sensory capacity were available. The extent of birth stress was determined by having subjects complete a questionnaire examining the incidence of nine birth risk factors during their birth: a) long labour b) breech birth c) breathing difficulty d) instrument delivery e) Caesarian delivery f) multiple birth g) premature birth h) low birth weight and i) high risk birth order. Seven sensory capacities were also tested using standard laboratory techniques; these included visual acuity, macular suppression, stereopsis, colour discrimination, pure tone hearing, speech recognition and sound localization. Significant associations between mild birth stressors and reduced adult capacity were found. Of the birth stressors examined, long labour was found to affect the sensory systems the most, possibly because other birth stressors such as hypoxia and forceps delivery often coincide with prolonged labours. Vision was found to be more vulnerable to birth stress effects than was audition, which may be due to the fact that the visual system matures more slowly than does the auditory system. These results suggest that it may be useful to include sensory factors in the pattern of deficits usually called the Alinormal Syndrome.

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