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Dev Med Child Neurol. 2011 Sep;53 Suppl 4:46-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2011.04065.x.

The effects of preterm infant massage on brain electrical activity.

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1
Department of Developmental Neuroscience, Stella Maris Scientific Institute, Pisa, Italy. aguzzetta@inpe.unipi.it

Abstract

AIM:

Early intervention programmes based on the manipulation of the extra-uterine environment have been used in preterm infants with the aim of improving development and functional outcome. Infant massage, among them, has proved effective for weight gain and reduced length of stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. We have recently shown that infant massage accelerates brain maturation of low-risk preterm infants without brain abnormalities as measured by global parameters of electroencephalography (EEG) activity. In the present study we further analyse the same cohort of preterm infants, testing the hypothesis that massage determines changes in EEG spectral activity, a highly sensitive index of brain maturation.

METHOD:

Infants were randomly allocated to a massage or comparison group. Intervention consisted of standard care only (comparison group) or standard care plus infant massage (massage group). Massage was started at around 10 days after birth and was provided for 12 days during a 2-week period. EEG was performed at around 1 and 4 weeks, i.e. before and after intervention. Spectral EEG analysis was performed on 80 seconds of active sleep, applying the fast Fourier transform on the signal obtained from eight monopolar derivations.

RESULTS:

The modification in global EEG spectral power between the two assessments was significantly different for the two groups, especially for the delta band activity; the spectral power did not change in massaged infants although, not surprisingly, it decreased significantly in the comparison group, as shown by previous studies.

INTERPRETATION:

We propose that massage intervention affects the maturation of brain electrical activity and favours a process more similar to that observed in utero in term infants.

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