Eighteen fullterm infants and 17 preterm infants were studied on their 3rd day of life to investigate the reactivity of skin blood flow to thermal stimulation. The infants were studied during quiet sleep. After a 10-min control period a constant air current was used to synchronise the external cutaneous stimulus to the distal lower extremity of each infant: the heating element of an air blower was automatically switched on and off to generate successive warm and cool periods of equal duration (5 cycles/min). Heart rate (HR), skin blood flow (SBF) and respiratory waveform signals were recorded and their variability was analysed using the fast Fourier transform and spectral analysis. Fullterm infants showed a clear response to external thermal stimulation: both HR and SBF were synchronised to the stimulation frequency. A response of preterm infants was present but it was markedly attenuated in comparison to term infants. The effect of stimulation did not seem to be dependent on postnatal age. The results suggest that the vasomotor control is immature in preterm infants.