In a study led by University College London (UCL), researchers looking at 13 newborn babies found that hiccups caused a large wave of brain signals that could support their development.
Lorenzo Fabrizi, senior author of the study, said in a statement that this brain activity can help babies "learn how to monitor their respiratory muscles", which ultimately leads to the ability to control breathing voluntarily.
He added: "When we are born, the chains that process the senses of the body are not fully developed, so the creation of such networks is a crucial moment for the development of newborns."
Because the babies participating in the study were premature and long-term , ranging from 30 to 42 weeks gestational age, studied they believe that this development may be typical of the last trimester of pregnancy.
According to researchers, fetuses and newborns often hiccup.
The phenomenon is observed as early as nine weeks of pregnancy, and premature babies – born at least three weeks prematurely – spend about 15 minutes in hiccups every day.
Premature and adult newborns participating in the study had electrodes placed on their scalp and sensors on their torso to observe the hiccups.
Scientists have found that contractions in the diaphragms of babies produce three brain waves and believe that, through the third brain wave, babies may be able to relate the "kickoff" hiccup sound to the physical contraction they are experiencing.
Kimberly Whitehead, lead author of the study, told CNN: " The muscle contraction of the hiccups is quite large – this is good for the developing brain because it suddenly gives a big boost to the contribution, which helps the brain cells connect together to represent that particular part of the body. "
that hiccups do not have some advantage for adults, and suggest that they may be an example of "a hangover from the early periods of our lives that goes on into later life."
The same researchers previously theorized that the baby kicks in the womb help him create a mental map of his own body.
Their new discoveries may indicate the same process occurring internally.