Electroencephalographic activity of preterm infants is increased by Family Nurture Intervention: a randomized controlled trial in the NICU

Clin Neurophysiol. 2014 Apr;125(4):675-684. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2013.08.021. Epub 2013 Oct 17.


Objective: To assess the impact of Family Nurture Intervention (FNI) on electroencephalogram (EEG) activity in preterm infants (26-34 weeks gestation).

Methods: Two groups were tested in a single, level IV neonatal intensive care unit (NICU; standard care or standard care plus FNI) using a randomized controlled trial design. The intervention consists of sessions designed to achieve mutual calm and promote communication of affect between infants and their mothers throughout the NICU stay. EEG recordings were obtained from 134 infants during sleep at ∼35 and ∼40 weeks postmenstrual age (PMA). Regional brain activity (power) was computed for 10 frequency bands between 1 and 48 Hz in each of 125 electrodes.

Results: Near to term age, compared to standard care infants, FNI infants showed robust increases in EEG power in the frontal polar region at frequencies 10 to 48 Hz (20% to 36% with p-values <0.0004). Effects were significant in both quiet and active sleep, regardless of gender, singleton-twin status, gestational age (26-30 or 30-35 weeks) or birth weight (<1500 or >1500 g).

Conclusion: FNI leads to increased frontal brain activity during sleep, which other investigators find predictive of better neurobehavioral outcomes.

Significance: FNI may be a practicable means of improving outcomes in preterm infants.

Keywords: Brain maturation; EEG; Maternal separation; Mother–infant intervention; Premature birth.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Child
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Treatment Outcome