Maternal Touch Activates Genes That Alleviate Pain in Infants Interview with:
Regina Marie Sullivan PhD

Professor Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Nathan Kline Institute
The Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
One Park Ave 8th Floor, New York, NY 10016

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? 

Dr. Sullivan: Managing pain during medical procedures in a critically important issue in medicine today. Our study was designed to better understand one method of reducing pain in young infants – having the caregiver be in contact with the baby during the painful procedure, which reduces the infant’s behavioral response to the medical procedure. This study explored the neural basis of the ability of the caregiver to reduce the pain response.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Sullivan: This research has shown us is that the maternal presence during pain is not just dampening the brains response to pain – this procedure is activating a unique set of genes involved in brain development.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Sullivan: Controlling pain in infants during medical procedures is very important and it helpful to have simple naturally available means to help the infant.  It is also very important that we understand both the immediate and long-term costs and benefits of this procedure. In this case, we now understand that this pain reduction procedure is activating a unique set of genes involved in brain development and not simply attenuating the brain’s pain response.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Sullivan: The identified genes are involved in brain development and our next task is to understand these genes.


Neuroscience 14 abstract discussing:

Mother’s soothing presence makes pain go away, changes gene activity in infant brain