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Psychobiological foundations of early sensori motor development and implications for neonatal care

Abstract : In mammals, somatosensation and chemosensation are the first sensory systems by which the developing organism becomes acquainted with its environment (Segond, 2008). Somatosensory perception includes tactile, thermal and pain perception through cutaneous receptors, as well as postural and movement information through muscle and tendon receptors. Chemosensory perception includes the olfactory, gustatory and trigeminal systems, involved in nutrition, social interactions, and emotional reactivity and regulation. In humans, these two systems emerge in utero and prepare the foetus for neonatal life. Because of this developmental heterochrony, they are the foundation of cognitive and affective development (Humphrey, 1970; Lecanuet & Schaal, 1996; Schaal, 2000; Schaal, Hummel, & Soussignan, 2004). Although the importance of these ontogenetically and phylogenetically earlier systems for individual development has been acknowledged for a long time, they are the least studied in the human neonate, compared with later modalities such as audition (Fitzgerald & Andrews, 1994; Streri, Hevia, Izard, & Coubart, 2013). Clinicians dealing with premature and other fragile newborns have initiated a regain of interest for these perceptions by suggesting therapeutic interventions in these modalities, but their efforts are impeded by the lack of fundamental knowledge that could drive their hypotheses and frame their observations. In this chapter, we propose a framework to study neonatal psychobiological development focusing on tactile and chemical senses. We want to emphasize how these senses are crucial modalities to understand very early development, and how they can bring rational arguments and testable hypotheses to the growing field of sensory therapies and developmental care in preterm and term neonates. We hope that these modalities will attract more attention from both researchers and clinicians in the future.
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Submitted on : Friday, July 12, 2019 - 4:50:07 PM
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Victoria Dumont, Maryse Delaunay-El Allam, Nadege Roche-Labarbe. Psychobiological foundations of early sensori motor development and implications for neonatal care. The Routledge International Handbook of Psychobiology, Routledge, 2018, 978-1-1381-8800-6. ⟨hal-02179797⟩

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