Director: Bobbi Pineda PhD, OTR/L, CNT
The NICU Therapy Lab, led by Dr. Bobbi Pineda, explores the impact of the environment, medical conditions, and therapeutic interventions on brain structure and functional outcomes of infants born prior to 32 weeks gestation who are hospitalized in the neonatal intensive care unit. The lab also conducts research centered around parental engagement, access to early intervention services, and development of assessment tools and new technologies and interventions. Recent developments from the NICU Therapy Lab include the Neonatal Eating Outcome Assessment, the Supporting and Enhancing NICU Sensory Experiences (SENSE) program, and the Baby Bridge program. Currently, the lab is focused on implementation of the SENSE program in hospitals throughout the US and abroad, adapting the Baby Bridge program to telehealth, and understanding early feeding performance and its implications on later outcomes.
Implementation of the Baby Bridge program via Telehealth to enhance access to early intervention services in Los Angeles >
The long-term goal of this project is to improve health and well-being of infants and families impacted by neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) hospitalization through early occupational therapy (OT). High-risk infants discharged from the NICU experience developmental challenges. Early OT: 1)…
Period: Sep 2021 – Sep 2023
Private Funding $100,000
Mechanism to Promote Safe and Efficient Oral Feeding in Preterm Infants >
Oral intake is an important indicator of weight gain and development for premature infants, especially as they approach discharge from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). However, the underlying skills for oral feeding such as coordinating suck-swallow-breathe, state regulation, and maintenance…
Period: May 2021 – May 2023
Federal Funding $1,730,866 (anticipated)
Multisensory Interventions to Improve Neurodevelopmental Outcomes of Preterm Infants Hospitalized in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit >
During hospitalization in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), premature infants repeatedly experience negative sensory experiences. Evidence suggests that combined with prematurity, experiences in the NICU environment are disruptive to neurodevelopment. The Supporting and Enhancing NICU Sensory…
Period: Mar 2022 – Feb 2027
Federal Funding $3,361,823 (anticipated)
Pineda, R., Kellner, P., Ibrahim, C., SENSE Advisory Team Working Group, & Smith, J. (2023). Supporting and Enhancing NICU Sensory Experiences (SENSE), 2nd edition: An update on developmentally appropriate interventions for preterm infants. Children, 10(6), 961. https://doi.org/10.3390/children10060961 Show abstract
The Supporting and Enhancing NICU Sensory Experiences (SENSE) program promotes consistent, age-appropriate, responsive, and evidence-based positive sensory exposures for preterm infants each day of NICU hospitalization to optimize infant and parent outcomes. The initial development included an integrative review, stakeholder input (NICU parents and healthcare professionals), and feasibility focus groups. To keep the program updated and evidence-based, a review of the recent evidence and engagement with an advisory team will occur every 5 years to inform changes to the SENSE program. Prior to the launch of the 2nd edition of the SENSE program in 2022, information from a new integrative review of 57 articles, clinician feedback, and a survey identifying the barriers and facilitators to the SENSE program’s implementation in a real-world context were combined to inform initial changes. Subsequently, 27 stakeholders (neonatologists, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, bedside nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, and parents) carefully considered the suggested changes, and refinements were made until near consensus was achieved. While the 2nd edition is largely the same as the original SENSE program, the refinements include the following: more inclusive language, clarification on recommended minimum doses, adaptations to allow for variability in how hospitals achieve different levels of light, the addition of visual tracking in the visual domain, and the addition of position changes in the kinesthetic domain.
Keywords. sensory-based interventions; sensory integration; sensation; exposure; environment; preterm; neonatal intensive care unit; NICU; tactile; auditory; multimodal; multisensory; vestibular; kinesthetic; visual; olfactory; gustatory; parenting; SENSE; review; program development
Pineda, R., Kellner, P., Guth, R., Gronemeyer, A., & Smith, J. (2023). NICU sensory experiences associated with positive outcomes: An integrative review of evidence from 2015–2020. Journal of Perinatology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41372-023-01655-y Show abstract
To inform changes to the Supporting and Enhancing NICU Sensory Experiences (SENSE) program, studies investigating sensory-based interventions in the NICU with preterm infants born ≤32 weeks were identified. Studies published between October 2015 to December 2020, and with outcomes related to infant development or parent well-being, were included in this integrative review. The systematic search used databases including MEDLINE, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, the Cochrane Library, and Google Scholar. Fifty-seven articles (15 tactile, 9 auditory, 5 visual, 1 gustatory/olfactory, 5 kinesthetic, and 22 multimodal) were identified. The majority of the sensory interventions that were identified within the articles were reported in a previous integrative review (1995–2015) and already included in the SENSE program. New evidence has led to refinements of the SENSE program, notably the addition of position changes across postmenstrual age (PMA) and visual tracking starting at 34 weeks PMA.