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Filler Christmas 2013: Strange Nativities

An antecedent of later developing communicative functions: the fetal index finger

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 17 December 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f7232
  1. Peter B Marschik, associate professor of physiology and neurolinguistics12,
  2. Heinz F R Prechtl, professor emeritus of developmental neurology1,
  3. Daniela Prayer, professor of neuroradiology3,
  4. Colleen Peyton, physical therapist4,
  5. Christa Einspieler, professor of physiology1
  1. 1Institute of Physiology, Research Unit iDN (interdisciplinary Developmental Neuroscience), Center for Physiological Medicine, Medical University of Graz, 8010 Graz, Austria
  2. 2Center for Genetic Disorders of Cognition and Behavior, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
  3. 3Department of Radiology, Division of Neuroradiology and Musculoskeletal Radiology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  4. 4Department of Therapy Services, University of Chicago Medical Center, Chicago, IL, USA
  1. Correspondence to: P B Marschik peter.marschik{at}
  • Accepted 11 November 2013

Introducing dynamic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) broke new ground in visualising human fetal behaviour.1 We use this method for detailed analyses of complex and coordinated fetal motor patterns, to study spontaneous motor activity, and for functional assessments of the young nervous system.2 While analysing a fetus at 27 weeks of gestation during an uneventful pregnancy, we observed that the fetus repeatedly extended her index finger and “pointed” at …

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