Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Health Professions

First Advisor

Craig Velozo

Second Advisor

Patricia Coker-Bolt

Third Advisor

Dorothea D. Jenkins


Infants who do not succeed at early feeding are likely discharged from the nursery with a gastrostomy tube (G-tube), putting them at risk for worse neurodevelopmental and sensory outcomes than infants who achieve full oral feeds. This study aims to investigate the impact of Non-invasive transcutaneous auricular vagal nerve stimulation (taVNS) on infants' early motor development and long-term neurodevelopmental sensory performance at 18 months. Besides the observed feeding improvement using taVNS paired with bottle-feeding, we explore if pre-treatment total STEP scores' is able to predict response to taVNS intervention. The pre-treatment total STEP scores did not contribute to the prediction model significantly. Then, we looked at the long-term effect of early taVNS treatment in both neurodevelopmental and sensory outcomes at 18 months follow-up. We found that infants who responded to early taVNS treatment when paired with bottle-feeding had better overall neurodevelopmental outcomes than non- responders. We also found that responders had significantly better typical scores in the general sensory section, and had more typical average mean scores in almost all the sensory profile sections than non-responders. These preliminary results are encouraging of the use of taVNS. Future studies can include randomization of active and control taVNS intervention with larger sample size.


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