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'Robot' device helps babies cope with pain

Researchers in British Columbia have designed a "robot" that helps reduce pain for premature babies. The robot simulates skin-to-skin contact with a parent who may not be available during around-the-clock procedures in a neonatal intensive care unit. Lead inventor and occupational therapist Liisa Holsti said the Calmer device is a rectangular platform that replaces a mattress inside an incubator. The device is programmed with information on a parent's heartbeat and breathing motion. The robotic part of Calmer is that the platform rises up and down to mimic breathing, and a heartbeat sound is audible through a microphone outside the device. Holsti says adding a pad on top resembles a skin-like surface. The aim is to help babies cope with pain through touch instead of medication as much as possible while they're exposed to multiple procedures. Dr. Ran Goldman said the device shows promise because there's a greater understanding that healing is delayed when pain is part of an infant's treatment. Scientists in the late 1960s believed babies didn't feel pain, but there's now an increasing understanding that they're more sensitive to it than older children or adults because their pain-inhibiting mechanisms haven't fully developed.

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