By Dr. Mallika Marshall

(CBS) – How cute is a baby’s hiccup? Turns out those hiccups may actually help a baby’s brain development.

Hiccups occur when the diaphragm contracts and the vocal cords rapidly close, making the characteristic noise.

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Baby hiccups begin in the womb and continue after birth. Most babies can sleep right through them.

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In a new study, researchers at University College London looked at 13 pre-term and full-term babies and found that hiccups trigger a large wave of brain signals. They believe this cascade may help babies learn how to regulate their breathing and voluntarily control breathing muscles, like the diaphragm, over time.

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The researchers said it’s possible that occasional hiccupping in adults may simply be leftover behavior from infancy.

Dr. Mallika Marshall