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Abstract

A within-subjects, counterbalanced, repeated measures design was employed to determine the effects of gender and six different types of verbal and tactile stimuli on the arousal of 24 infants hospitalized for congenital heart disease during their first 6 months of life. Infants were systematically assigned to different sequences of the various stimuli. Measures of arousal included heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and activity level. Results indicated that the use of touch conducive to neural excitation (i. e., intense, vigorous, extensive touching of highly innervated body areas) produced higher heart rates (p < 0.01) and systolic blood pressure (p < 0.002) as well as greater activity (p < 0.01) than did other types of tactile stimulation or soothing verbal stimulation. Girls appeared more physiologically responsive to touch than boys and a subset of infants showed evidence of distress during more arousing stimulation.