Examining Feeding and Cardiorespiratory Patterning in Zika-Exposed Infants in Puerto Rico

Funding Source: NIH-R21 (HD095321), PI Zimmerman

The objective of this application is to examine sucking (AIM 1), oral feeding (AIM 2), and cardiorespiratory patterning (AIM 3) in three cohorts of infants (n=200) born in Puerto Rico: control infants who were not exposed to Zika virus (ZIKV) during pregnancy (Group 1), infants who were exposed to ZIKV during pregnancy without evidence of congenital ZIKV syndrome (CZS; defined by the following: severe microcephaly, brain anomalies, ocular findings, congenital contractures, and neurological impairments (10)) (Group 2), and infants who were exposed to ZIKV during pregnancy with evidence of CZS (Group 3). Findings from this work could have broad implications for advancing our knowledge of ZIKV, and an immediate impact on clinical therapies. More specifically, the proposed studies are likely to: (1) provide essential data on how ZIKV exposure effects sucking, feeding, and cardiorespiratory development; (2) examine the utility of using these behaviors as an early assessment of neural, cardiac and respiratory systems in infants exposed to ZIKV; and (3) shift how researchers and clinicians assess and treat these behaviors with the ultimate goal of improving these important clinical outcomes so that infants exposed to ZIKV in utero may grow and thrive.



Non-Nutritive Suck in Infants with Cleft Lip and/or Palate in Collaboration with Dr. Carolyn Rodgers-Vizena and Boston Children’s Hospital

Funding Source: None

Feeding is challenging for children with cleft lip and/or cleft palate. In this research study we want to learn more about non-nutritive suck in infants with cleft lip and/or cleft palate. Non-nutritive suck is one of the first actions a baby makes after birth and may be different in infants with clefts. By understanding whether there are differences in this initial feeding action for infants with clefts, in the future we may be able to better tailor feeding protocols.



Integration of Non-Nutritive Suck and Eye Tracking as markers of Neurodevelopment Across Five ECHO Cohorts

Funding Source: NIH-U2 (U2COD023375), Pilot Study PI Zimmerman

The aims of this project are to implement the NNS technology (Aim 1) and infrared eye tracking (Aim 2) in five different environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) cohorts, and use it to assess sensorimotor and global neurofunctions in relation to environmental exposures and maternal stress in both full-term and preterm infant populations. We hypothesize that poor NNS and eye tracking outcomes will be associated with increased phenol exposures and prenatal stress levels. We project to enroll 553 new participants combined with 301 participants with data already collected (n=854) across the five ECHO cohorts over the two-year study period. Results from this project will demonstrate that we can seamlessly integrate these new technologies across four ECHO awards (5 cohorts) at the University of Illinois, Mt. Sinai (2 cohorts), UCSF and Puerto Rico, which together racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse and include both preterm and full-term infant population. Several features of the proposed research provide an unprecedented opportunity to transform how epidemiologists assess the impact of prenatal factors on early neurodevelopment. The research will use novel, state-of-the-art assessments to measure specific aspects of infant neurodevelopment, which require little training to administer and yield quantitative outcome data. Additionally, results will produce a paradigm shift in how epidemiological and clinical researchers approach neurodevelopmental assessment in the first year of life.

Examining the relationship between infant sucking and breathing patterns during sleep

Funding Source: SEED Grant

This study examines the relationship between suck and breathing patterns during sleep, in full-term infants between 2 to 4 months of age to better understand breathing and sucking patterns and the possible correlation with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This research project is ongoing with researchers at the University of Maine Roux Institute. Study participants receive a commercial baby monitor to record their infant’s full night of sleep as well as at naptime. Participants are able to keep the monitor and also receive a $150 Amazon gift card for their participation.

If you are interested in participating, please email us at