Preventing long term effects of early NICU light and noise exposure in pre-term infants
Every year 15 million babies are born preterm (~1 in 10). Those babies fortunate enough to receive proper medical care often spend many days to weeks in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU). Many treatments that are life saving are also invasive, as well as, hyper sensory. That is, the preterm infant is exposed to light and noise levels that they would not be exposed to in utero. At the cost of these life saving procedures, recent research has shown detrimental longitudinal effects on both the auditory and visual system of these children. Not only can NICU stimulus levels cause damage to the hair and retinal cells, but they can adversely shape the way sensory stimuli are processed later in life.
The onset of visual experience gates auditory cortex development, plasticity, and recovery from hearing loss
My previous work has shown that the onset of visual experience has a significant impact on auditory development. In regards to preterm birth in humans, my work has shown that the NICU light exposure might precociously terminate the period of auditory development and plasticity that happens during the last phase of gestation prior to birth. This project will investigate whether exposure to light shapes the auditory development around the NICU auditory environment. An A/V attention task will be used to gauge the effect of early sensory over exposure on sensory based cognitive decision making in juveniles and adults.
Preventing NICU exposure-induced changes to auditory system development with pharmacological intervention
In my recent work, I discovered that pharmacological intervention via daily administration of an FDA approved GABAergic drug completely prevented the short and long term effects of hearing loss. Using this concept, this project will assess the effect of drug treatment on preventing the developmental effects of pre-term NICU exposure. Daily drug regiments are a part of the infants routine, and adding an FDA approved drug that has been shown to prevent other hearing related cellular and behavioral dysfunctions could offer an easy solution to the long term effects of NICU exposure. Thus, this project will also test a battery of GABAergic and other classes of drugs to assess their ability to prevent NICU exposure induced changes to physiology and behavior.