Developing Brain




James W. Prescott, Ph.D.


George Santayana The Life of Reason (1905) 

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

ON 30 MARCH 2015, the NICHD provided a public press release that described an intervention to teach mothers of preterm infants how to interact with their babies more effectively, which resulted in better weight gain and growth for the infants, a study funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

Maternal interaction improves growth, weight gain in preemies


This 2015  NICHD study affirmed the findings of Dr. Mary Neal in 1967 that MOVING Bassinets in the ICU, provided compenssatory vital vestibular stimulation that was drastically reduced in the premature developing infant. This led to improved neuromaturation and health status, which resulted in early release from the hospital.

This study was featured in the Time Life documentary Rock a Bye Bay that was premiered as the 1970 White House Conference on Children. https://ttfuture.org/academy/james-w-prescott/overview

Neal, M. (1967). Vestibular stimulation and developmental behavior in the small premature infant. Nursing Research Report 3:1-4.

A subsequent study (2015) showed that infants who had the benefit of a major component of this intervention more rapidly developed the muscle control needed for feeding successfully from a bottle. The initial findings were published on line in the Journal of Perinatology and the subsequent study in Advances in Neonatal Care.

The intervention is made up of two parts. The first part, called the Auditory, Tactile, Visual and Vestibular (ATVV) intervention, teaches mothers how to interact socially with their infants and gently stimulate their senses. The other part teaches the mothers how to interpret and respond to their infants’ behavioral cues while giving the ATVV intervention and when feeding them.

Valerie Maholmes, Ph.D. Chief, Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch, NICHD reported that Preterm infants who fail to gain sufficient weight are at a higher risk for delays and even impairments in cognitive ability and motor skills.”

Patricia A. Grady, Ph.D., R.N. FAA, Director, National Institute of Nursing Research
National Institutes of Health stated : “Powerful new tools can be used to advance nursing science. Today, more people are living with chronic illnesses and the adverse symptoms that result from them. New advances in genomics and other fields have allowed scientists to better understand the symptoms of chronic illness, such as pain, fatigue, and disordered sleep. NINR supports research to develop improved, personalized strategies to treat and prevent the adverse symptoms of illness across diverse populations and settings.

It appears that the pioneering research of Dr. Neal was unknown to these authors, as have the core messages of Rock a by Baby some forty years ago. It is the intent of this communication to remind the ”leaders” of the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of this history that has emphasized the critical role that sensory stimulation, particularly vestibular (Movement) stimulation has upon fetal/ neonatal, infant/child development.

Particular attention is drawn to the following video clips that document these relationships and the importance of Dr. Neal’s research.

https://vimeo.com/69200952 -9 Min

https://vimeo.com/71761209 -2 Min

Special attention should be given to Prematurity, Infant Mortality and In utero Sensory Deprivation For Aberrant Brain Development and Infant Survival

Where I stated:

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 conduct research in partnership with scientists and families to optimize the care of these highly vulnerable infants.

2. It is requested that the NICHD/NIH establish Neal Moving Bassinets in ICUs throughout the country where vestibular (Movement) sensory stimulation had been documented to facilitate neuromaturation and their early release from the ICU.

3. The hiring of grandmothers (allomothers) with rocking chairs while providing mother’s milk can be an important asset in facilitating neonatal maturation and survival.

The importance of mothers breastfeeding and her breast milk for those prematures who cannot “latch-on” is essential for the growth, development and survival of the infant and child http://www.violence.de/prescott/letters/The_Mother_2007.pdf



This writer is indebted to Austin H, Riesen (1975) and Sharpless (1969, 1975) for bringing to his attention the relevance of denervation supersensitivity research to the behavioral pathologies consequent to maternal-infant separation.(Cannon,(1939)

Riesen, A.H. (Ed). (1975).  The Developmental Neuropsychology of Sensory Deprivation. Academic Press. New York.

Sharpless, S.K. Disuse supersensitivity (1975). In: The Developmental Neuropsychology of Sensory Deprivation (Riesen, A.H., Ed). Academic Press,   NY

Sharpless, S.K. Isolated and deafferented neurons: Disuse supersensitivity (1969). In: Basic Mechanisms of the Epilepsies (Jasper, Ward & Pope (Eds). Little Brown & Co., NY 329-355.

Cannon, W.B. A Law of Denervation (1939). Amer. J. Med. Sci. 193, 737-749

Evidently, the research on denervation supersensitivity is unknown to Dr. Guttmacher and Dr. Collins.

The scientific and human communities are forever in debt to the extraordinary contributions of Mason and Berkson (1975) that has illuminated the singular importance of MOVEMENT in primate development, supported by the NICHD.

Mason, W.A. and Berkson, G. (1975). Effects of Maternal Mobility on the Development of Rocking and Other Behaviors in Rhesus Monkeys: A Study with Artificial           Mothers. Developmental Psychobiology. 8, 197-221 http://www.violence.de/mason/mason74.pdf

Your attention to this history should not be forgotten nor should it be permitted to continue.

1 April 2015   James W, Prescott, Ph.D. BioBehavioral Systems