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Dr. Marie Hayes
Professor of Psychology
Allied Senior Research Scientist and Lead Coordinator of the Neurogenetics Consortium, Maine institute for Human Genetics & Health
By studying the sleep patterns of opiate-addicted newborns going through withdrawal, University of Maine psychologist Marie Hayes hopes to more clearly establish the connection between abornal sleep and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in high-risk babies, such as premature infants and those exposed during pregnancy to narcotics, medications, tobacco and alcohol. With opiate addiction among young women of childbearing age considered by the Maine Center for Disease Control to be at epidemic levels in northern and eastern Maine, the research is expected to support the development of new comprehensive screening and “early-early” intervention protocols for at-risk infants. Research collaborations related to neonates and sleep include work with Japan’s National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry. In a recent study, the international research team found that newborns whose mothers abuse alcohol during pregnancy have disrupted sleep resulting in chronic accumulation of sleep debt when compared to normal infants. Maternal drinking patterns predicted infant sleep fragmentation; in particular, more frequent and longer waking after the onset of sleep and decreased REM sleep. The study also found that prepregnancy rates of alcohol consumption, including binge drinking, predicted decreased infant alertness and increased irritability. Hayes’ other National Institutes of Health-funded research examines quantitative features of “protective” sleep-related movements regulating respiration and cardiac function which are suppressed in infants at high risk for SIDS.