Premature Babies and Manual Perception

Tactile Stimulation
A newborn baby is washed and nursed, and the body comes into contact with human hands, clothes, and diapers. A newborn baby has manual perception, which means that she can make sense of the environment. A baby has a grasping reflex but the hands can also be used to explore the environment.  
 
At birth the  sense organs may not be fully developed but a full-term baby is able to gather information and to discriminate different properties by exploring an object with her hands, for example, weights, textures, and substance. Thus, the grasping reflex is not a pure reflex rather manual perception allows a baby to examine and to gather information about the world. 
 
Distinguish between Objects
Research suggests that premature babies can distinguish between objects of different shapes. Premature babies at 33-week post conceptual age could distinguish between a prism and a cylinder with their right and left hands. Thus, the result suggests that they have fully mature manual perception (the average weight was 1500 g). 
 
The research was conducted using habituation where it is assumed that a baby looses interest in an object that she recognises. A new object increase the time a baby pays attention to the object. 
 
The premature babies showed more interest in a new object and the paid attention to the object for longer time using their hands to explore it. When a baby holds an object, she can receive information about the object.
 
Getting Tired
There was difference is the speed that the premature and full-term babies indicating a difference in motor maturation. Preterm babies tire more quickly when holding an object. Otherwise, the results indicate that pre-mature babies are similar when it comes to manual perception as compared to full-term babies. 
 
Lejeune et al. The Manual Habituation and Discrimination of Shapes in Preterm Human Infants from 33 70 34+ 6 Post-Conceptual Age. PLos ONE, 2010; 5(2).
Photo: Infant by Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot

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