Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders


Date of this Version



J Perinatol. 2014 March ; 34(3): 213–219.


Copyright 2014 Barlow et al.


Background—Controlled somatosensory stimulation strategies have demonstrated merit in developing oral feeding skills in premature infants who lack a functional suck, however, the effects of orosensory entrainment stimulation on electrocortical dynamics is unknown.

Objective—To determine the effects of servo-controlled pneumatic orocutaneous stimulation presented during gavage feedings on the modulation of aEEG and rEEG activity.

Methods—Two-channel EEG recordings were collected during 180 sessions that included orocutaneous stimulation and non-stimulation epochs among 22 preterm infants (mean gestational age = 28.56 weeks) who were randomized to treatment and control ‘sham’ conditions. The study was initiated at around 32 weeks post-menstrual age (PMA). The raw EEG was transformed into amplitude-integrated EEG (aEEG) margins, and range-EEG (rEEG) amplitude bands measured at 1-minute intervals and subjected to a mixed models statistical analysis.

Results—Multiple significant effects were observed in the processed EEG during and immediately following 3-minute periods of orocutaneous stimulation, including modulation of the upper and lower margins of the aEEG, and a reorganization of rEEG with an apparent shift from amplitude bands D and E to band C throughout the 23-minute recording period that followed the first stimulus block when compared to the sham condition. Cortical asymmetry also was apparent in both EEG measures.

Conclusions—Orocutaneous stimulation represents a salient trigeminal input which has both short- and long-term effects in modulating electrocortical activity, and thus, is hypothesized to represent a form of neural adaptation or plasticity that may benefit the preterm infant during this critical period of brain maturation.