Talking to preterm babies in the NICU can improve their language and cognitive skills months later, according to a study published in Pediatrics. Researchers tracked 36 medically stable, preterm infants in the NICU, using recording devices to determine how many adult words they were exposed to during 16-hour periods at 32 and 36 weeks of postmenstrual age. At 7 and 18 months of corrected age, standardized tools were used to assess the babies' language and cognitive abilities. For every increase of 100 words per hour spoken to the preemies during the 32-week recordings, the researchers found a 2-point increase in the babies' language scores at 18 months and a half-point increase in expressive communication scores. Further, the adult word count per hour during the 36-week recording accounted for a 26% variance in cognitive scores at 7 months. The findings may reveal a window of opportunity for parents and caregivers to expose preterm babies to early language enrichment in the NICU, say the authors. Read the abstract.
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