Reading to Preterm Babies May Have Long Term Benefits

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 2, 2016

By reading to their babies, parents are not only bonding with them and reducing some of the stress of being in the NICU, but they’re also aiding in their children’s brain development.

By reading to their babies in the NICU, parents are aiding in their children’s brain development.

During a newborn’s time in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), critical brain development is occurring, including the development of the pathways that control language skills. By reading to their babies, parents are not only bonding with them and reducing some of the stress of being in the NICU, but they’re also aiding in their children’s brain development.

“More than half of babies born at very low birth weight have language delays during childhood,” says Carmina Erdei, MD, a neonatologist in the Department of Pediatric Newborn Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). “This is not a coincidence, and there is something we can do about it.”

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Preterm Birth and Brain Development: A New Frontier of Newborn Care

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 29, 2015

One in nine babies in the U.S. is born prematurely.

One in nine babies in the United States is born prematurely. Thanks to innovations in medical care, more than 90 percent of these babies survive. However, nearly half of preterm infants may be at risk for learning problems later in life. Dr. Terrie Inder, Chair of the Department of Pediatric Newborn Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), is working to overcome this challenge.

Dr. Inder, who is dual-trained in pediatric neurology and neonatology, is expanding BWH research programs to study newborn brain development. One area of her research is the use of brain imaging to predict the likelihood of future learning problems. In 25 percent of preterm babies, Dr. Inder explains, brain imaging mirrors that of full-term babies, indicating a low risk for the development of learning problems. However, in about 20 percent of preterm babies, researchers see changes in brain imaging that suggest an increased risk for learning problems later in life. Based on these findings, additional therapy and support services may be recommended to positively influence brain development.

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