Occupational Therapy NICU Laboratory
General Laboratory Description
Dr. Pineda directs the Occupational Therapy NICU Laboratory, which seeks to better understand the effects of the environment, medical conditions and interventions on brain structure and functional outcome of the developing infant. Most of the current work involves premature infants born prior to 32 weeks gestation (two months early). Neurobehavioral examinations and feeding evaluations are important components of measuring early function. Measuring maternal, social, environmental and medical factors as well as long-term outcomes is also an important part of the lab’s work.
General Description of Student Activities
Students will learn about the NICU environment and early premature infant development as well as team dynamics and how to interact in the NICU setting. After acclimating to the NICU environment and understanding the complexities of interacting with this fragile population, students will have the opportunity to participate in providing sensory interventions to preterm infants across their hospitalization. Next, students learn how to conduct neurobehavioral assessments with young infants.
Students support the activities of the NICU lab with a team-based approach, which can include obtaining informed consents, educating nurses, doing neurobehavioral assessments with supervision, measuring NICU language and sound measurements and medical record data collection. Students actively engage in the research process from start to finish under the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Pineda. This lab offers experience in infant assessment, clinical research, functioning as part of a team, teaching, leadership, presenting at state and national conferences and publishing.
Examples of Projects
- Sensory processing disorder in preterm infants during early childhood and relationships to early neurobehavior
- Early therapy services following NICU discharge
- Occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology in the NICU: Patterns of therapy usage in a level IV NICU
- The development of sucking skills in the preterm infant in the NICU
- Auditory exposures in the NICU: Room type and other predictors
Lab Created Assessments
The Occupational Therapy NICU Laboratory created an assessment to evaluate the construct of feeding/eating for bottle-fed and breastfed premature infants in the NICU. The Neonatal Eating Outcome assessment tool (NEO) is a comprehensive, standardized assessment that can be used from the time that feeding is initiated throughout the neonatal period to delineate alterations in the infant's feeding trajectory. To learn more about the NEO assessment and inquire about purchasing, click here.