Acoustic Cry Characteristics of Infants as a Marker of Neurological Dysfunction: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Harriet L.S. Lawford, Hannah Sazon, Céline Richard, Michael P. Robb, Samudragupta Bora

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3 Scopus citations


Background: Atypical cries have been identified in infants with neurological dysfunction. The aim of this study was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to appraise existing evidence for associations between acoustic cry characteristics and neurological dysfunction in infants aged 18 months or less. Methods: PubMed/MEDLINE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and Embase were searched for original, peer-reviewed studies published in English reporting cry variables in infants aged 18 months or less with or at risk of neurological dysfunction. Studies without a nonneurologically impaired control sample were excluded. Pooled effect sizes were estimated using standardized mean difference (SMD) and odds ratio (OR). I2 indicated study heterogeneity, and the risk of bias was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale. Results: From March 2018 to February 2019, 28,294 studies were retrieved. Eight were meta-analyzed. Infants with or at risk of neurological dysfunction exhibited higher mean (SMD = 0.11 [95% confidence interval, 0.00 to 0.23]) and minimum (SMD = 0.93 [0.64 to 1.23]) fundamental frequency; higher odds of hyperphonation (OR = 13.17 [1.05 to 165.87]), biphonation (OR = 10.62 [1.53 to 73.59]), rise-fall-rise melodies (OR = 4.66 [1.16 to 18.66]), and flat melodies (OR = 4.47 [1.27 to 15.68]); and lower odds of fall-rise-fall melodies (OR = 0.21 [0.05 to 0.83]). Conclusions: Infants with underlying neuropathology have unique cries characterized by higher fundamental frequency, dysphonation, and atypical melodies, although study heterogeneity and imprecision of effect size estimates limited our interpretation. Assessment of acoustic cry characteristics offers the potential for noninvasive, rapid, point-of-care screening for neurologically high-risk infants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-79
Number of pages8
JournalPediatric Neurology
StatePublished - Apr 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology


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