The focus of my program of research is early developmental exposure to sound, specifically maternal voice. I began with investigating maternal voice because in the normal uterine environment, maternal speech provides a predominant, unique source of multi-modal sensory stimulation (auditory, vibratory, and vestibular) for the developing fetus. For the preterm infant, however, this unique source of sensory stimulation (mother’s voice) is primarily lost, since the mother visits are limited, and the infant is continually exposed to the elevated levels of light and sound in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). My long-term goal is to use these comparisons between the fetus and preterm infant to improve the health of preterm infants through the development and testing of interventions optimizing on the benefits of maternal stimulation.
My educational background is in nursing, with a minor in behavioral psychology and developmental psychology. As a PI on funded grants, I have gained expertise in measures of heart rate variability, early learning capabilities and short-term outcomes necessary for discharging preterm infants from the hospital (e.g., weight gain, days to enteral and oral feeds). As a doctoral student, I was awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) to complete a longitudinal description of exposure to maternal voice in the 28 to 34 week fetus and was the PI on a grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct a follow-up study. At the same time, I was PI on an NIH P20 Pilot Study funded by the Southern Nursing Research Society to conduct a similar study of the 28 to 34 post-menstrual age preterm infant using parallel methods and outcomes.
University of Florida Research Foundation Professorship award