Prematurity, Infant Mortality and In utero Sensory Deprivation For Aberrant Brain Development and Infant Survival
Prematurity, Infant Mortality and In utero Sensory Deprivation For Aberrant Brain Development and Infant Survival
James W. Prescott, Ph.D.
In The New England Journal of Medicine ((1913, June 6) Hudson, Guttmacher and Collins (stated:
Each year in the United States, nearly 500,000 infants — 1 in every 8 — are born prematurely, before 37 weeks of gestation. Despite substantial advances in their care, premature infants face a daunting array of challenges; they are at high risk for death in infancy and face severe and lifelong health problems if they survive.1 The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a legal and moral responsibility to do research in partnership with scientists and families to optimize the care of these highly vulnerable infants.
Matthews, T.J. and MacDorman, M.F. (2007) in Infant Mortality Statistics from the 2004 Period Linked Birth/Infant Death Data Set. Division of Vital Statistics, National Vital Statistics Report, Centers For Disease Control and Prevention stated
More than one-half (55 percent) of all infant deaths in the United States in 2004 occurred to the 2 percent of infants born at less than 32 weeks of gestation. Still, infant mortality rates for the preterm (34-36 weeks of gestation) infants were three times those for term (37-41 week) infants. The three leading causes of infant death—Congenital malformations, low birth weight and SIDS—taken together accounted for 45 percent of infant deaths.” (pp 1-2).
Clearly, prematurity is a leading cause of infant mortality, which remains unresolved and “Despite substantial advances in their care, premature infants face a daunting array of challenges; they are at high risk for death in infancy and face severe and lifelong health problems if they survive (Hudson, Guttmacher and Collins, 2013).
Why has so little progress been made concerning prematurity and infant mortality by the OB/GYN and Pediatric communities?
This writer has proposed that sensory deprivation of the developing brain has resulted in developmental postnatal brain abnormalities that has impaired neuronal systems that mediate pleasure of affectional bonding, which can be reviewed at (Prescott, 1971,1990, 1996) and at Breastfeeding Bonding Prevents Infant Mortality and Suicide
The findings of Berman, Berman and Prescott (1974) that paleocerebellar but not neocerebellar decortication could eliminate pathological violence in adult mother deprived monkeys and permit petting and hand feeding that was not possible before surgery; and the findings of Heath (1975) that pathology of brain function (septal spiking discharges); and cerebellar electrophysiological abnormalities affirm the role of limbic-cerebellar abnormalities in mother deprived monkeys.
The emphasis has been in this work on the sensory deprivation of the postnatal developing brain and subsequent behaviors and the failure of modern medicine to recognize the importance of the fetal and post-natal sensory environment for brain-behavioral development.
This history has compelled the drawing of attention to the prenatal environment because the epidemic of prematurity has deprived the fetal brain of essential sensory stimulation necessary for brain development that imperils infant survival (Prescott, 1971, 1975; Zubeck, 1969;Riesen, 1975).
There are six sensory systems where only one sensory system, is functionally operational throughout fetal development—the vestibular-cerebellar system that is the only sensory system which is fully myelinated at birth. The other sensory systems are later in fetal and postnatal development where sensory perceptions are functionally rudimentary in utero ( Gottlieb, 1971; Prescott, 1971,1975, 1976).
Sensory stimulation is essential for normal brain growth and development that makes sensory behavioral functions possible. This principle is well established as the work of Nobel Laureates Hubel and Weisel ( 2005) attest.
Prescott, J.W. (1971b) has reviewed how sensory deprivation during early development has resulted in stimulus-seeking behaviors, and violence that is attributed to denervation supersensitivity ( Cannon (1939, Cannon and Rosenbleuth (1949), which is specific to the sensory system deprived and affects later discrimination of pattern perceptions.
Mason and Berkson (1975) documented that a moving mother surrogate could prevent the development of pathological behaviors that is well described in the primate mother infant separation studies. Pleasure deprivation is also noted as a causative force in addictive behaviors (Prescott, 1980).
The fetus floating in a bath of amniotic fluid and gently stimulated by movement of the Mother throughout the day provides a continuing source of vestibular-cerebellar stimulation that is crucial for forming the early fundamental networks of the brain that are vital for infant survival. Prematurity deprives the fetal infant brain of this essential neural stimulation.
It should be noted that the primary projection system from the vestibular nuclei is to the brain stem and cerebellum and not to the cerebral neocortex,--the thinking, rational brain. (Schwarz, Dietrich W.F. and Frederickson, John M (1970; Prescott, 1971). See Figure 1 for sensory neocortical projection fields.
Sensory Deprivation as Functional Denervation Supersensitivity
Cannon (1939), Cannon and Rosenbleuth (1949), and Sharpless (1969, 1975) have defined denervation supersensitivity of nervous system structures that have been denied their afferent stimulation through surgical deafferentation. This writer has proposed that the hyperactivity and hyper reactivity observed as a consequence of maternal-infant separation is a special case of functional denervation supersensitivty and is the neurophysiological mechanism that mediate the behavioral pathologies of maternal–infant separation- depression, stereotypical behaviors, impulse dyscontrol, anger, rage, and violence of homicide and suicide.(somatosensory deprivation—(functional sensory deafferentation). Prescott, 1971. 2013).
Prescott (1972) described how SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), the third leading cause of infant mortality, perhaps can best be understood as the result of aberrant excitatory cortical cerebellar inhibition of respiratory centers of the brain stem, due to denervation supersensitvity—the lack of sensory stimulation.,e,g, cribs and bassinets that do not move, thus the necessity of ICU bassinets in motion.
The three leading causes of infant mortality account for 55% of infant deaths which leaves unexplained the remaining 45%. The causes are multiple which call for renewed efforts to prevent prematurity in the first place. Hopefully, this essay will be an incentive to achieving that objective.
Loewy, J. Kristen Stewart, Ann-Marie Dassler, Aimee Telsey and Peter Homel (2013) have documented the health benefits of The Effects of Music Therapy on Vital Signs, Feeding, and Sleep in the Premature and have vindicated the importance of sensory system stimulation in the premature.
This essay is a plea that the NICHD/NIH act upon: 1 The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a legal and moral responsibility to do research in partnership with scientists and families to optimize the care of these highly vulnerable infants.
It is requested that the NICHD/NIH establish Neal Moving bassinets in ICUs throughout the country. The importance of mothers breastfeeding and her breastmilk for those prematures who cannot “latch-on” is essential for the growh, development and survival of the infant and child.
4 July 2013
This writer is indebted to Auistin H, Riesen (1975) for bringing to his attention the relevance of denervation supersensitivity research to the behavioral pathologies consequent to maternal-infant separation.
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