Cry analyzer gives vital information about babies' health

Washington, July 12 (ANI): A team of researchers has developed a new computer-based tool to perform finely tuned acoustic analyses of babies' cries.

The team from Brown University and Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island hopes their baby cry analyzer will lead to new ways for researchers and clinicians to use cry in identifying children with neurological problems or developmental disorders.

"There are lots of conditions that might manifest in differences in cry acoustics," Stephen Sheinkopf, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown, who helped develop the new tool, said.

"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 noninvasive way to get a measurement of these disruptions in the neurobiological and neurobehavioral systems in very young babies," he said.

The new analyzer is the result of a two-year collaboration between faculty in Brown's School of Engineering and hospital-based faculty at Women and Infants Hospital.

The system operates in two phases. During the first phase, the analyzer separates recorded cries into 12.5-millisecond frames.

Each frame is analyzed for several parameters, including frequency characteristics, voicing, and acoustic volume.

The second phase uses data from the first to give a broader view of the cry and reduces the number of parameters to those that are most useful.

The frames are put back together and characterized either as an utterance - a single "wah" - or silence, the pause between utterances.

Longer utterances are separated from shorter ones and the time between utterances is recorded.

Pitch, including the contour of pitch over time, and other variables can then be averaged across each utterance.

In the end, the system evaluates for 80 different parameters, each of which could hold clues about a baby's health.

"It's a comprehensive tool for getting as much important stuff out of a baby cry that we can," Harvey Silverman, professor of engineering and director of Brown's Laboratory for Engineering Man/Machine Systems, said.

The research is published in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research. (ANI)