In order to improve clinical care for preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), much more research is needed to examine long-term effects of neonatal early exposure to stressful events and treatments on brain development and later outcomes, particularly in those born very preterm; this work is necessary so that we can understand the etiology of neurodevelopmental problems which occur at high rates in these vulnerable children. My research program involves novel translational studies to advance the health and care of children born preterm. Precisely, I am leading studies to address the impact of early-life adversity such as stress, pain, inflammation, treatments and maternal separation, on the developing brain of very preterm infants. It is essential to first determine the mechanisms underlying the effects of early-stress exposure, such as pain-related changes, and to test novel mitigating treatments. Indeed, identifying brain-protective interventions with which to manage neonatal procedural pain are essential and is a major focus of my research.


Hippocampus, amygdala, and thalamus volumes in very preterm children at 8 years: Neonatal pain and genetic variation
Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00051

Adverse behavioral changes in adult mice following neonatal repeated exposure to pain and sucrose
Frontiers in Psychology
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02394

Is near infrared spectroscopy valid for the detection of procedural pain in postoperative cardiac surgery intensive care unit adults?
Journal of Near Infrared Spectroscopy
DOI: 10.1177/0967033517730369

Repeated exposure to sucrose for procedural pain in mouse pups leads to long-term widespread brain alterations
DOI: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000961

Neonatal Invasive Procedures Predict Pain Intensity at School Age in Children Born Very Preterm
Clinical Journal of Pain
DOI: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000353

How do babies feel pain?
DOI: 10.7554/eLife.07552

Neonatal Pain and Infection Relate to Smaller Cerebellum in Very Preterm Children at School Age
Journal of Pediatrics
DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.04.055

Early repetitive pain in preterm infants in relation to the developing brain
Pain management
DOI: 10.2217/pmt.13.61

Innovating in Pain Assessment of the Critically Ill: Exploring Cerebral Near-Infrared Spectroscopy as a Bedside Approach
Pain Management Nursing
DOI: 10.1016/j.pmn.2012.03.005

Internalizing behaviours in school-age children born very preterm are predicted by neonatal pain and morphine exposure
European Journal of Pain (United Kingdom)
DOI: 10.1002/j.1532-2149.2013.00431.x

Neonatal pain and comt Val158Met genotype in relation to serotonin transporter (SLC6A4) promoter methylation in very preterm children at school age
Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00409

A multidimensional approach to pain assessment in critically ill infants during a painful procedure
Clinical Journal of Pain
DOI: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31826dfb13

Neonatal Pain-Related Stress Predicts Cortical Thickness at Age 7 Years in Children Born Very Preterm
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076702

Maternal Touch and Talk for Invasive Procedures in Infants and Toddlers in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
Journal of Pediatric Nursing
DOI: 10.1016/j.pedn.2010.12.016

Cerebral near-infrared spectroscopy as a measure of nociceptive evoked activity in critically ill infants
Pain Research and Management

Toward a new approach for the detection of pain in adult patients undergoing cardiac surgery: Near-infrared spectroscopy—A pilot study
Heart and Lung: Journal of Acute and Critical Care
DOI: 10.1016/j.hrtlng.2009.10.018

Incidence of self-limiting back pain in children following caudal blockade: An exploratory study
Paediatric Anaesthesia
DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-9592.2010.03365.x

Developing synergy to enhance the impact of nursing intervention research on patient health
Canadian Journal of Nursing Research

Interventions used in Emergency Departments (ED) for pain management of simple fractures in children
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007538

An acute pain service improves postoperative pain management for children undergoing selective dorsal rhizotomy
Paediatric Anaesthesia
DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-9592.2009.03184.x

Controlling bias in complex nursing intervention studies: A checklist
Canadian Journal of Nursing Research

Theoretical, Psychometric, and Pragmatic Issues in Pain Measurement
Pain Management Nursing
DOI: 10.1016/j.pmn.2007.12.001

Temperament and Pain Response: A Review of the Literature
Pain Management Nursing
DOI: 10.1016/j.pmn.2007.09.005

Current Controversies Regarding Pain Assessment in Neonates
Seminars in Perinatology
DOI: 10.1053/j.semperi.2007.07.003

Horner's syndrome following thoracic epidural analgesia in children: A report of two cases
Acute Pain
DOI: 10.1016/j.acpain.2006.05.001

Continuous axillary block for paediatric trauma patients who failed with PCA therapy
Acute Pain
DOI: 10.1016/j.acpain.2006.09.001


System interactions during early-life development
Using animal models to gain basic knowledge to better inform clinical studies in preterm infants, my lab examines the interactions between the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems during the critical period of early-life development, to prevent changes to the brain due to exposure to early-life stressors, and thereby improve outcomes.

Immune response to early repetitive pain and oral sucrose in the developing immature brain
Immune response to early repetitive pain and oral sucrose in the developing immature brain using a mice model that closely mimics NICU care. Here we are examining short and long-term effects of repeated exposure to pain and/or sucrose during the first week of life in mouse pups, through measures of pro/anti-inflammatory cytokines in serum and brain, as well as oxydative stress markers.

Identifying novel brain-protective interventions
Identifying novel brain-protective interventions with which to manage neonatal procedural pain is also a focus of the research conducted in the lab. One such intervention is oral melatonin.


“Determining the long-term metabolic effects of neonatal sucrose treatment (Pilot study).” Principal Investigator: Devlin A. & Soma K; Role: Co-Investigator; Agency: BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute - Healthy Starts Catalyst Grant; Period: 04/2017 – 05/2019

Canadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Program Career Enhancement Program award (April 2014-2016)

Canadian Institute Health Research (CIHR) Postdoctoral Fellowship (May 2013-April 2016)

Fonds Recherche Quebec – Sante (FRQ-S) Postdoctoral Fellowship (May 2013-April 2015)

Honours & Awards

Distinction Award - Outstanding graduate student for excellence in medical research, Charles James Patton and Elizabeth Ross Patton Memorial Prize, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University (2007)