We have come a long way in our understanding of how the brain works, including consciousness which is related to the neurobiological and psychological development of the brain. A simple definition of consciousness is awareness of the body, oneself, and the outside world.
For a long time people have argued about the level of awareness newborns and infants have to the world around them and within them. If you can't remember it does it really matter, right? In Hugo Lagercrantz's most recent book: 'Infant Brain Development' he presents sound, biological evidence that consciousness begins when the thalamocortical connections have been established, which occurs around 23-25 weeks gestation. Consequently these extremely premature infants should be treated as a person, with the same human rights as an adult patient!
We remember through conscious and unconscious processes (explicit and implicit memory). And, as we are learning about the effects of early life adversity (mediated by toxic stress), the body does remember even if the conscious self does not!
The principles and practices of neuroprotective care make a difference and MUST become the true, measurable, consistent model of care for hospitalized newborns, infants and families!
"NICU staff need to keep their voices down, dim the lights when possible, allow infants uninterrupted periods of sleep, and minimize painful procedures when feasible. Parents need to be allowed to act like parents, helping to protect their child and fostering their growth and developmental well-being. In a large, busy NICU, these goals can be challenging and require a health care team with a dedicated and determined state of mind."
What's the state of mind in your NICU? Please consider participating in our State of Mind Survey. Survey Completion Time ~ 15 minutes
Take care and care well!