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There is however, limited current evidence of improved neurodevelopment or improved attachment, maternal mood or anxiety.
A lowering of the age limit of viability and an increase in preterm birth numbers has made preterm birth a significant public health issue .
Despite advances in technology, the number of preterm infants with neurodevelopmental compromise remains high .
The severity of the deficits is related to the degree of prematurity and the presence of neuroradiological injuries , however high rates of more subtle but nonetheless important neurodevelopmental abnormalities also occur in low-risk preterms without obvious brain injury [5, 6].
Even in late preterm infants, the effects of preterm birth on brain development are more significant and long lasting than previously thought [5, 7].
The control group will receive care as usual (CAU).
Infants and their mothers will be assessed at baseline, TEA, 12 months and 24 months corrected age (CA), with a battery of clinical, neuroimaging and electrophysiological measures, as well as structured questionnaires, psychoanalytic observations and neurodevelopmental assessments.Preterm infants follow an altered neurodevelopmental trajectory compared to their term born peers as a result of the influence of early birth, and the altered environment.Infant massage in the preterm infant has shown positive effects on weight gain and reduced length of hospital stay.Although some differences between term infants and preterm infants at term equivalent age are explained by the effect of complications associated with preterm birth, both the experience of a highly stressful ex-utero environment and the lack of the stimulation normally experienced in the womb, exert detrimental effects on the immature brain [6, 9].The challenges imposed by the extra-uterine environment, disrupt the above described development of a “neurotypical” brain.The untimely interruption of the developing fetus’ environment is thought to be a major contributor to this phenomenon .The altered neurodevelopmental trajectory observed in preterm infants results from interruption of the intrauterine environment.An early intervention such as massage that is relatively easy to administer and could alter the trajectory of preterm infant brain development, holds potential to improve neurodevelopmental outcomes in this vulnerable population.Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12612000335897. Over the past 50 years, there has been a progressive decrease in preterm infant mortality .Environmental enrichment and social stimulation induce experience-dependent neuroplasticity in experimental animal models .Neuroplasticity is the capacity of the mammalian brain to use the activity induced by a given experience, enabling the modification of function in neuronal circuitry .