The effect of an intensive care unit sound environment on the development of habituation in healthy avian neonates

Dev Psychobiol. 1994 Jan;27(1):11-21. doi: 10.1002/dev.420270103.


There is increasing concern that environmental stimuli in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) may be detrimental to the preterm infants hospitalized there. Separately, there is longstanding recognition that preterm infants at 40 weeks postconceptional age habituate less reliably than full-term infants. This study uses a relevant animal model to test whether exposure to NICU sounds, as a single departure from normal neonatal experience, can alter habituation. Chicks were incubated, hatched, and reared in either a quiet or a NICU-sound environment. Habituation was measured by the length of time that chicks delay their ongoing peeping upon hearing a white noise stimulus. NICU-sound-reared 4-day-olds failed to habituate, showing as much responsiveness at the end of repeated stimulation as at the beginning. This is, to our knowledge, the first demonstration that atypical sound exposure alone can alter this fundamental aspect of neurosensory competence in an otherwise healty neonate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / psychology*
  • Animals
  • Arousal*
  • Auditory Perception*
  • Chickens
  • Female
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*
  • Male
  • Noise*