B E YOND THE BARN
The research into the causes and treatment of neonatal maladjustment syndrome (NMS) could reach well beyond equine medicine. John Madigan, DVM, of the University of California–Davis is working with researchers in human neonatology and development to determine the role the birth process might play in the hormone levels in newborns.
“It’s been established that humans have high levels of neurosteroids at birth, but what if they don’t go down? Nobody has really looked into that,” says Madigan. “There’s been some work looking at what they call ‘kangaroo care,’ where mothers hold newborns that aren’t doing well. There have been remarkable stories about babies who were considered nearly dead gaining consciousness simply because their mothers held them close. What if that contact is doing something similar to our rope squeeze?”
There is also potential relevance for autism research, says Madigan. He notes that recent research has shown that autistic children have significantly higher concentrations of many hormones, including those that are precursors to the neurosedatives found in foals. “Recently we’ve learned that two risk factors for autism were induction of labor and augmented delivery. Both of which might lead to less time in the birth canal. And Temple Grandin taught us all about the benefits of squeezing and pressure on autistic individuals. I am particularly excited about collaborating with researchers in this field to see if and how all of this might be connected.”
“It’s been established that humans have high levels of neurosteroids at birth, but what if they don’t go down?”