A touchy subject — preterm babies' brains respond to contact

Tuesday, 13 June, 2017

Findings reported in Current Biology show that babies’ earliest experiences of touch impacts how their brains respond to gentle touch later. Researchers from the US Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Centre looked at the impact of touch on both premature and full-term babies.

Preterm babies’ brains were found generally to have a reduced response to gentle touch compared with full-term babies, but when the babies in neonatal intensive care units spent more time in gentle contact with their parents or healthcare providers, their brain response was stronger. In contrast, the more painful the medical procedures premature infants had to endure, the less their brain responded to gentle touch later. So new parents are encouraged to take heart: their touch matters more than they may realise.


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