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Published Findings

The Nurture Science Program is a multidisciplinary team of research scientists and clinicians dedicated to exploring the biological and behavioral mechanisms and benefits associated with nurture. This approach spans the research continuum — from basic science and translational research to clinical care — and includes the development of new theories rooted in research and testing.

Findings from cell biology and neurobiology, combined with insights from psychology, psychiatry, and child development research, support the new construct of emotional connection and direct the development of practical, nurture-based therapies to emotionally connect parents and children.

The results are clear, compelling, and critical to helping children and families. Nurture is a powerful force to support healthy physical, mental, and emotional development. Lack of nurture leads to long-term, far-reaching problems. The Nurture Science Program team’s research strongly suggests that nurture-based interventions can help to overcome and prevent many of these difficulties.

Clinical Research

A randomized control trial of Family Nurture Intervention in the neonatal intensive care unit showed long-term benefits for babies and their mothers.

Clinical Research Findings

Autonomic regulation of preterm infants is enhanced by Family Nurture Intervention. 
Developmental Psychobiology. 2019

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Validation study showed that ratings on the Welch Emotional Connection Screen at infant age six months are associated with child behavioral problems at age three years. 
Acta Paediatrica. 2019

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Perinatal antibiotics alter preterm infant EEG and neurobehavior in the Family Nurture Intervention trial.
Developmental Psychobiology. 2019

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Family nurture intervention for preterm infants facilitates positive mother-infant face-to-face engagement at 4 months.
Developmental Psychology, 2018

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Integrated information in the EEG of preterm infants increases with family nurture intervention, age, and conscious state.
PLoS One, 2018

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The Welch Emotional Connection Screen (WECS): Validation of a Brief Mother-Infant Relational Health Screen.
Acta Paediatrica, 2018

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Increased trophoblast inclusions in placentas from prematurely born infants: A potential marker of risk for preterm neurodevelopmental outcomes.
Placenta, 2017

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Family nurture intervention in preterm infants increases early development of cortical activity and independence of regional power trajectories.
Acta Paediatrica, 2017

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Nurture in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Acta Paediatrica, 2016

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Advances in family based-interventions in the neonatal ICU
Current Opinion in Pediatrics, 2016

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Family Nurture Intervention in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit improves social-relatedness, attention, and neurodevelopment of preterm infants at 18 months in a randomized controlled trial
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2015

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Family Nurture Intervention Improves the Quality of Maternal Caregiving in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial
Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 2015

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Family Nurture Intervention in preterm infants alters frontal cortical functional connectivity assessed by EEG coherence
Acta Paediatrica, 2015

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Depression and anxiety symptoms of mothers of preterm infants are decreased at 4 months corrected age with Family Nurture Intervention in the NICU
Archives of Women's Mental Health, 2015

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Family Nurture Intervention in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit improves social-relatedness, attention, and neurodevelopment of preterm infants at 18 months in a randomized controlled trial
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2015

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Electroencephalographic Activity of Preterm Infants is Increased by Family Nurture Intervention: A Randomized Controlled Trial in the NICU
Clinical Neurophysiology, 2013

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Randomized Controlled Trial of Family Nurture Intervention in the NICU: Assessments of Length of Stay, Feasibility, and Safety
BMC Pediatrics, 2013

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Family Nurture Intervention: Methods and Treatment Protocol of a Randomized Controlled Trial in the NICU
BMC Pediatrics, 2012

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Theoretical Development

The Nurture Science Program developed two new constructs — emotional connection and visceral/autonomic co-regulation. Together, these form the Calming Cycle Theory.

Theoretical Development Findings

Darwin's Other Dilemmas and the Theoretical Roots of Emotional Connection 
Frontiers in Psychology, 2019

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Calming Cycle Theory and the Co-Regulation of Oxytocin.
Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 2017

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Calming cycle theory: the role of visceral/autonomic learning in early mother and infant/child behavior and development
Acta Paediatrica, 2016

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Basic Research

Molecular biology, cell biology, and animal models show the powerful biological effects of nurture.

Basic Research Findings

Enteric Serotonin and Oxytocin: Endogenous Regulation of Severity in a Murine Model of Necrotizing Enterocolitis.
American Journal of Physiology Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 2017

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Dopamine neuron dependent behaviors mediated by glutamate cotransmission.
eLIFE, 2017

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Colostrum Oxytocin Modulates Cellular Stress Response, Inflammation, and Autophagy Markers in Newborn Rat Gut Villi
Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 2017

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Prairie Vole Pups Show Potentiated Isolation-Induced Vocalizations Following Isolation From Their Mother, But Not Their Father
Developmental Psychobiology, 2016

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Variations in maternal behavior in rats selected for infant ultrasonic vocalization in isolation.
Hormones and Behavior, 2015

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Effects of maternal deprivation and the duration of reunion time on rat pup ultrasonic vocalization responses to isolation: possible implications for human infant studies.
Developmental Psychobiology, 2015

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Oxytocin regulates gastrointestinal motility, inflammation, macromolecular permeability, and mucosal maintenance in mice.
American Journal of Physiology Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 2014

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Oxytocin Modulates Markers of the Unfolded Protein Response in Caco2BB Gut Cells
Cell Stress and Chaperones, 2013

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Oxytocin Modulates mTORC1 Pathway in the Gut
Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 2013

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Cutting the vagus nerve below the diaphragm prevents maternal potentiation of infant rat vocalization.
Developmental Psychobiology, 2011

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Combined administration of secretin and oxytocin inhibits chronic colitis and associated activation of forebrain neurons.
Neurogastroenterology & Motility, 2010

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Expression and developmental regulation of oxytocin (OT) and oxytocin receptors (OTR) in the enteric nervous system (ENS) and intestinal epithelium.
Journal of Comparative Neurology, 2009

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Secretin activates visceral brain regions in the rat including areas abnormal in autism.
Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology. 2003

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Research Findings Point the Way Forward

Exciting work is happening at the Nurture Science Program. This year, the NSP will focus...

Martha G. Welch, MD, Honored by American Psychiatric Association

Dr. Martha G. Welch, Director of the Nurture Science Program, has been named a Distinguished...