News Release

C-section could impact baby's ability to focus: York U study

York University research has revealed that being born in a C-section slows babies' spatial attention that plays a role in how well they are able to focus on a particular area or object of interest.

Peer-Reviewed Publication

York University

TORONTO, August 11 2015 -- There can be a difference in how well babies focus attention on an object of interest, depending on whether they were delivered by natural birth or Caesarean section, a recent York University study indicates.

"Our research has revealed that being born by a C-section slows a baby's spatial attention, which plays a role in its ability to focus on a particular area or object of interest," says Professor Scott Adler in the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health at YorkU.

According to Adler and his co-researcher Audrey Wong Kee-You, very little was known about how the birth experience influences a baby's psychological and brain development, though earlier studies have shown that factors such as birth weight and the mother's age impact child development.

Another key finding of the study, Differential Attentional Responding in Caesarean versus Vaginally Delivered Infants, published online today in Springer's journal Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, is that there is no difference in the way a baby's voluntary attention is diverted to an object of interest. That is, both an infant born vaginally and an infant by C-section decide to look at a new object, alike.

For the study, 34 infants were presented with two types of object selection tasks, to measure the latency of eye movements in hundreds of milliseconds. In a 30-minute session, the infants were on their backs with the stimuli above them on a screen, while infrared light tracked their eye movements.

According to Adler, these are very important findings, considering there is a steady increase in the number of Caesarean sections. He also adds that further research into this attention difference by examining whether the Caesarean was due to birthing complications or by choice, and whether it has a long term impact, will also offer insight into the reason for differences in spatial attention in children.


NOTE: Professor Scott Adler is available for media interviews, including from York U Media Studio

York University is helping to shape the global thinkers and thinking that will define tomorrow. York U's unwavering commitment to excellence reflects a rich diversity of perspectives and a strong sense of social responsibility that sets us apart. A York U degree empowers graduates to thrive in the world and achieve their life goals through a rigorous academic foundation balanced by real-world experiential education. As a globally recognized research centre. York U is fully engaged in the critical discussions that lead to innovative solutions to the most pressing local and global social challenges. York U's 11 faculties and 25 research centres are thinking bigger, broader and more globally, partnering with 280 leading universities worldwide. York U's community is strong ? 55,000 students, 7,000 faculty and staff, and more than 275,000 alumni.

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