The proposed research: (1) investigates how human mothers, through nursing, influence the behavioral and physiological states of their infants from birth until 12 weeks of age, (2) analyzes peripheral and central mechanisms that mediate these changes, and (3) evaluates the effects of nonnutritive sucking on metabolism and growth in normal infants and those born to drug-addicted women.
Specific Aim I determines the qualitative and quantitative effects of milk and its components, protein, fat and lactose, alone and in combination, on calming, energy-conservation and on coping with pain. It also evaluates whether opioid processes contribute to these changes by studying infants born to women who were maintained on methadone during pregnancy.
Specific Aim II extends these investigations to infants 2-12 weeks of age. We have already discovered that, unlike new borns, who are quieted by as little as 0.1 ml. of an effective tastant, 2-week-old infants must receive a minimum of 0.5 ml. once/min. Dose-response functions will determine whether this change is qualitative or quantitative only. We have also discovered that infants 6 weeks of age and older are quieted only when effective solutions are presented to them when they are visually engaged by the individual delivering the solution. We will determine whether the taste- (or olfaction-) induced mechanism has undergone additional qualitative or quantitative changes in these older infants. The crucial aspect of visual contact that allows the taste (olfactory) driven mechanism to calm and induce energy-conservation will be identified. Specifically, we will determine whether visual stimulation is effective through eye contact per se, through seeing the investigator's face, or through the contingent movement of the experimenter in maintaining visual contact. Finally, in order to determine the motivational consequences of these state changes, infant visual preferences or aversions for the individual delivering sucrose, milk, or water will be assessed. Taken together, these studies qualitatively and quantitatively document the psychobiology of human affect during early infancy and may start to provide a biological basis for the emotional foundations of the mother-infant relationship.
Specific Aim III evaluates the biological function of nonnutritive suckling in normal infants and those born to cocaine using women. This information will be incorporated into a therapeutic program to improve the health and growth of drug-addicted infants. Preliminary data indicate that this program will be successful.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Scientist Award (K05)
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Child/Adolescent Risk and Prevention Review Committee (CAPR)
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Oliveri, Mary Ellen
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University of Massachusetts Amherst
Schools of Arts and Sciences
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Blass, Elliott (2015) Energy conservation in infants. Behav Processes 117:35-41
Gray, Larry; Miller, Lisa W; Philipp, Barbara L et al. (2002) Breastfeeding is analgesic in healthy newborns. Pediatrics 109:590-3
Blass, E M; Camp, C A (2001) The ontogeny of face recognition: eye contact and sweet taste induce face preference in 9- and 12-week-old human infants. Dev Psychol 37:762-74
Gray, L; Watt, L; Blass, E M (2000) Skin-to-skin contact is analgesic in healthy newborns. Pediatrics 105:e14
Blass, E M (1997) Interactions between contact and chemosensory mechanisms in pain modulation in 10-day-old rats. Behav Neurosci 111:147-54
Blass, E M (1997) Infant formula quiets crying human newborns. J Dev Behav Pediatr 18:162-5
Blass, E M (1997) Milk-induced hypoalgesia in human newborns. Pediatrics 99:825-9
Blass, E M; Blom, J (1996) beta-Casomorphin causes hypoalgesia in 10-day-old rats: evidence for central mediation. Pediatr Res 39:199-203
Blass, E M (1996) Mothers and their infants: peptide-mediated physiological, behavioral and affective changes during suckling. Regul Pept 66:109-12
Blass, E M; Shah, A (1995) Pain-reducing properties of sucrose in human newborns. Chem Senses 20:29-35

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