"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 a paper describing its use in the " Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research."
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."
Last fall, several of the same researchers published research that found the cries of babies can provide early clues about their autism risk. The team compared the cries of 21 different 6-month-old babies who were considered at higher risk for autism (because they had siblings with the disorder) with the cries of low-risk babies. They found many consistent differences, particularly that the infants with a family history of the disorder had higher-pitched cries than those who did not.
The newest study on cry analysis is an extension of that work that helps validate the measurements used, Sheinkopf said. For now, it is targeted for babies who are up to 6 or 9 months old.
Image: Crying baby, via Shutterstock