Essential medical treatment can cause discomfort to babies. But little is known about how they experience pain, or how to minimise it. Our new research post will lead to better understanding, with better outcomes for babies worldwide.
We are delighted to be funding our first ever research fellowship on Professor Rebeccah Slater's team in the Oxford University Paediatric and Infant Pain and Anaesthesia (PiPA) group.
Premature babies experience about 10 painful procedures a day. But how do we know for sure what hurts, or how much? Is the baby crying in pain or hunger – or just needing a cuddle?
‘Pain itself can cause physiological instability,’ explains Associate Professor of Paediatric Neuroscience at Oxford University, Rebeccah Slater. One of the World Economic Forum’s ’50 leading young scientists’, she is based at the JR’s Newborn Care Unit, where her team researches better ways of measuring and reducing pain in babies.
There are long term implications. ‘A high burden of early life pain can alter the way the brain develops, and can cause heightened sensitivity to pain later’ says Professor Slater.
The historic view was that the infant nervous system was too immature to experience pain, but doctors and scientists no longer believe this. ‘We can look at changes that are taking place across the whole of the baby’s nervous system during essential painful medical procedures and see the brain activity generated’.
The PiPA team also studies ways to reduce pain in babies – adult treatments aren’t necessarily effective. Can a parent help, say, by stroking their baby before a painful event? The team are also looking at whether medicine – including local anaesthetics – can provide effective relief. For example, the POPPI (Procedural Pain in Premature Infants) trial tests whether morphine reduces pain during an essential eye exam.
Through SSNAP discussion groups parents of premature babies help researchers decide the most important questions, and trained parent helpers inform parents about the research taking place on the Newborn Care Unit.
In 2017 SSNAP is providing £125,000 for a significant new post within the PIPA team – the University of Oxford SSNAP Research Fellow in Paediatric Neuroscience – aimed at improving infant well-being. This is a rare opportunity for a scientist, skilled at analysing and interpreting data, to develop their career, supported by world class research and clinical teams.
We are looking for sponsors of our research fellowship, if you would like to invest in world changing research, adding your name to the contributors to this, then we would like to hear from you. For more information contact Emma Cantrell - firstname.lastname@example.org.