NICU Lab News

April 2014


Congratulations to Tara Crapnell, OTD ’13, whose doctoral project, “Factors Associated with Adverse Feeding Outcome in the Preterm Infant” was published by Acta Paediatrica (August 2013).

Congratulations to Lauren Reynolds, OTD ’13, OTR/L, whose doctoral project, “Factors Associated with Early Cortical Activity in the Preterm Infant” was published in Acta Paediatrica (October 2013).

Congratulations to Laura Madlinger-Lewis, OTD ’12, whose doctoral project, “Developmental Effects of Neonatal Positioning: a Randomized Clinical Trial” was published in Research in Developmental Disabilities (December 2013).

Congratulations to Lauren Reynolds, OTD ’13, OTR/L, whose manuscript “Maternal Obesity and Increased Risk for Autism and Developmental Delay Among Very Preterm Infants” was accepted for publication in Journal of Perinatology.

Congratulations to Sonya Dunsirn, OTD/S '14, who defended her doctoral project, “Head Turn Preference in the Preterm Infant and Associations with Outcome," in March 2014.

Congratulations to Hayley Chrzastowski, OTD/S '15, and Odo Nwabara, OTD/S '15, who defended their doctoral project proposals in the past few months. Hayley’s project is “Maternal Breast Milk Consumption in Preterm Infants and Early Neurobehavioral Outcome” and Odo’s project is “Early Therapy Services and Associations with Developmental Outcomes in Preterm Infants."

Congratulations to Tara Crapnell, OTD ’13, who began a new job with EI and is now on the board at Creative Identity.

Lab Update

The lab has been evolving over the past 6 months – we have recently had to say goodbye to members who have moved on to continue their careers in Boston, including Terrie Inder, Jeff Neil, Cindy Ortinau, Chris McPherson and Lianne Woodward. While their presence is missed, the support, mentoring, and collaboration that they have provided have laid the foundation for a research team that will continue to thrive.

The OT NICU lab has been growing. We welcome Tricia Coffelt, Lauren Reynolds, OTD ’13, OTR/L, and Sarah Cheatham Oberle, OTD '13, OTR, to our research team. Tricia is an occupational therapist who works in the NICU at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and is assisting 6 hours per week in lab as a research assistant-she has been a great help imparting her knowledge and sharing her expertise as she is a clinical NICU therapist. Lauren has returned from Ireland and is working part-time in the lab as a research coordinator. Sarah is a recent OTD graduate from Meredith Gronski’s lab, who has an interest in the NICU and in neuroscience, and will be working part-time as a research coordinator.

Thank you to Tess Greene, OTD/S '15, and Kathryn Dimitriyev, MSOT/S '14, who have been aiding the lab as graduate assistants.

The NICU Private Room manuscript has been published and has been receiving some attention in the news and among others interested in the NICU environment. See ‘recent press’ for details.

Grant Updates

Bobbi Pineda, PhD, OTR/L, received a grant through the Boston Rehabilitation Outcomes Center (ROC), which is funded by NIH to develop a neonatal feeding assessment, and she has begun the IRB process. The Neonatal Eating Outcome (NEO) Assessment seeks to incorporate concepts of cue-based feeding, assessment of dysfunction and, most importantly, seeks to score each infant based on expected performance across postmenstrual age.

Dr. Pineda's K12 project is nearing completion of enrollment. Fifty-five infants have been enrolled, and language and sound measurements have been captured across hospitalization. Infants had a neurobehavioral assessment and MRI at discharge. Differences in language and sound exposure across room type will be explored. In addition, the relationship between early sound exposure and brain development are being investigated.

Additional funding opportunities are being explored to enable replication of private room finding. We are also exploring new directions related to the early sensory environment and are considering new pathways to investigate the effects of interventions in the NICU.

Current Students

One doctoral student and three master’s students have been very busy wrapping up their projects, finishing manuscripts and getting ready for OT Scholarship Day. Sonya Dunsirn, OTD/S ’14, is finishing her manuscript, titled “Head Turn Preference in Preterm Infants and Associations with Outcome” and will be sending it out for author review soon.

Laura Renew, MSOT/S ’14, is finishing up her project, exploring the process toward establishing a neonatal therapy certification process. Joy Bender, MSOT/S ’14, is finishing up her manuscript investigating the effects of parental presence and holding on the developmental outcome of preterm infants at age 2. Kelsey Melchior, MSOT/S ’14, is finishing her manuscript investigating infant social interaction at term equivalent and associations with autism risk at two years in premature infants. Hayley Chrzastowski, OTD/S ’15, has defended her proposal investigating the effects of breastfeeding on brain structure and function in preterm infants. Odochi Nwabara, OTD/S ’15, has defended her proposal and will begin data collection to characterize early intervention (EI) services in the first two years of life following NICU discharge and investigate associations between EI services and two-year developmental outcomes of premature infants. In January, we welcomed two new doctoral students to the OT NICU lab: Kelsey Dewey, OTD/S ’16, and Katie Albrecht, OTD/S ’16. Kelsey is interested in helping develop the new neonatal feeding assessment, as well as investigating caregiving practices and associations with feeding outcomes. Katie is interested in investigating early therapy in the NICU and associations with early neurobehavior.

Students presented at the Missouri Occupational Therapy annual conference and the Crucial Early Years Conference last fall. Joy Bender, Sonya Dunsirn, Odo Nwabara, Hayley Chrzastowski, Laura Renew and Kelsey Melchior presented on topics including breastfeeding in the NICU, neurobehavioral testing, and the implications of prematurity.

Current members of the lab will be presenting at the National Association of Neonatal Therapists Conference (April 2014), Occupational Therapy Scholarship Day (April 2014) and the Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting (May 2014) on topics including head turn preference, feeding, and research in the NICU.

Recent Press

Study suggests private NICU rooms may influence preemies’ development
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The NICU Environment: Not All Silence Is Golden
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Findings: Private NICU rooms may affect preemies' development
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Preemies in private NICU rooms later show lower language scores, study finds
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Preemies in Private Rooms May Require Extra Care

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Sensory deprivation in private rooms in the NICU
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Too little noise is bad for newborns in intensive care
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Commentary by Ortenstrand et. al:
Örtenstrand, A. (2014), The role of single-patient neonatal intensive care unit rooms for preterm infants. Acta Paediatrica. doi: 10.1111/apa.12566

Previous Publicity

Physical therapy helps premature infants thrive
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Study documents preemies' development in NICU, suggests early interventions

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OTs helps premature babies catch up
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