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Infant Behav Dev. 2008 Sep;31(3):361-73. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2007.12.008. Epub 2008 Mar 4.

Vagal activity, early growth and emotional development.

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Touch Research Institutes, University of Miami School of Medicine, United States; Fielding Graduate University, United States.


A review of the research on infant vagal tone suggests that vagal activity is associated with both infant growth and infant socioemotional development. Vagal activity has been noted to increase following the stimulation of pressure receptors as in massage therapy. Vagal activity, in turn, stimulates gastric motility which mediates weight gain in infants. Vagal activity has also been notably elevated during synchronous mother-infant interactions and positive affect, providing confirmatory data for the Porges "social engagement system" model. In contrast, low vagal activity has been noted in prenatally depressed mothers (and prenatally angry and anxious mothers) and their infants, as well as in children with autism. These studies highlight the relations between vagal activity and the social behaviors of attentiveness, facial expressions and vocalizations.

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