Neonatal control of nutritive sucking pressure: evidence for an intrinsic tau-guide

Exp Brain Res. 1999 Feb;124(3):371-82. doi: 10.1007/s002210050634.


Human newborns appear to regulate sucking pressure when bottle feeding by employing, with similar precision, the same principle of control evidenced by adults in skilled behavior, such as reaching (Lee et al., 1998a). In particular, the present study of 12 full-term newborn infants indicated that the intraoral sucking pressures followed an internal dynamic prototype - an intrinsic tau-guide. The intrinsic tau-guide, a recent hypothesis of general tau theory is a time-varying quantity, tau(g), assumed to be generated within the nervous system. It corresponds to some quantity (e.g., electrical charge), changing with a constant second-order temporal derivative from a rest level to a goal level, in the sense that tau(g) equals tau of the gap between the quantity and its goal level at each time t. (tau of a gap is the time-to-closure of the gap at the current closure-rate.) According to the hypothesis, the infant senses tau(p), the tau of the gap between the current intraoral pressure and its goal level, and regulates intraoral pressure so that tau(p) and tau(g), remain coupled in a constant ratio, k; i.e., tau(p)=k tau(g). With k in the range 0-1, the tau-coupling would result in a bell-shaped rate of change pressure profile, as was, in fact, found. More specifically, the high mean r2 values obtained when regressing tau(p) on tau(g), for both the increasing and decreasing suction periods of the infants' suck, supported a strong tau-coupling between tau(p) and tau(g). The mean k values were significantly higher in the increasing suction period, indicating that the ending of the movement was more forceful, a finding which makes sense given the different functions of the two periods of the suck.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bottle Feeding*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Models, Biological*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Mouth / physiology*
  • Pressure