Effect of early multisensory massage intervention on visual functions in infants with Down syndrome

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Background: Down syndrome is a frequent cause of intellectual disability, with severe impact on the quality of life of affected individuals and their families, and high social costs. Intervention programs should start soon after birth but no consensus exists on specific types and timing of early interventions in this population. Aim: This pilot study explores the effects of an early multi-sensory intervention, based on body massage, on the development of visual function in infants with Down syndrome. Method: Infants were randomly allocated to either a massage or a control group. Intervention consisted of only standard care (Control Group) or standard care plus infant massage (Massaged Group). Visual acuity was assessed by Teller Acuity Cards and stereopsis by the Frisby Stereopsis Screening Test at 5, 6, 9 and 12. months. Results: Massaged Group Infants showed a significantly higher visual acuity at 6. months of age and an accelerated development up to at least 12. months; compared to Controls, stereopsis had an earlier onset in the Massaged Group followed by a faster maturation. Conclusion: Environmental enrichment, in the tested form of infant massage, seems to affect maturation of visual functions in human infants, also in the presence of a genetic disability, when applied during a period of high brain plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)809-813
Number of pages5
JournalEarly Human Development
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Brain plasticity
  • Down syndrome
  • Early intervention
  • Environmental enrichment
  • Infant massage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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