Pavlovian Pacifier Teaches Premature Babies to Eat

Infants born at full term are able to feed themselves thanks to their instinctive sucking reflex and the fully developed muscles needed to extract milk from their mothers. But every year in the U.S., more 500,000 infants are born prematurely, few of them with the muscular strength needed to acquire nourishment from either their mother or a bottle.

Jayne M. Standley, Ph.D., a distinguished professor at Florida Stata University's College of Music who is recognized throughout the United States as the foremost authority on medical music therapy, is the inventor of the Pacifier Activated Lullaby (PAL®). Specially wired to play a soothing lullaby in response to each successful sucking motion, the PAL® is an FDA-approved, patented system that "utilizes music reinforcement therapy to stimulate non-nutritive sucking and the breathe-suck-swallow reflex in pre-term infants."

Proprietary sensing, control and feedback algorithms are integrated into a discrete device that can be calibrated to each baby's needs. The PAL® is wired to deliver a specifically timed lullaby each time the infant correctly sucks, meeting the preset pressure criteria.

With benefits that include early transition to oral feeding, rapid weight gain, enhanced maturation or neural systems, and decreased stress, the PAL® can reduce the amount of time a preemie stays in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) by an average of five days—saving an average of $10,000-per-preemie in hospital fees.

Features of PAL® System:

• LCD graphic display
• External memory via USB and SD ports
• Amplifier with two audio (binaural) outputs
• Pacifier sensor module with piezo sensor technology and one-wire bus connection
• Ergonomic, user-friendly design; lightweight yet robust
• Conforms to UL, EMC, IEC standards
• Sealed enclosure utilizes surface transducer speaker technology enabling greater infection control

The rights to marketing and distribution of the device were purchased by Power Devices Technologies—a medical device company based in St. Johns County, Florida—who this week announced it had begun selling the PAL® to hospitals. The company also plans to produce an at-home model for parents to use. [FSU via IEEE - Image via FSU]