Neuroplasticity evidence from animals favors an early enriched environment for promoting optimal brain injury recovery. In infants, systematic reviews show environmental enrichment (EE) improves cognitive outcomes but the effect on motor skills is less understood. The objective of this review was to appraise the effectiveness evidence about EE for improving the motor outcomes of infants at high risk of cerebral palsy (CP).
A systematic review was conducted. Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (PubMed), Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Education Resource Information Center, SocINDEX, and PsycINFO databases were searched for literature meeting inclusion criteria: randomized controlled trials; high risk of /diagnosis of CP; >25% participants ≤2 years; parent or infant interventions postdischarge; and motor outcomes reported. Data were extracted using the Cochrane protocol regarding participants, intervention characteristics, and outcomes. Methodological quality was assessed using risk of bias assessment and GRADE.
A total of 226 studies were identified. After removing duplicates and unrelated studies, 16 full-text articles were reviewed, of which 7 studies met inclusion criteria. The risk of bias varied between studies with the more recent studies demonstrating the lowest risk. Enrichment interventions varied in type and focus, making comparisons difficult. A meta-analysis was conducted of studies that compared enrichment to standard care (n = 5), and totaled 150 infants. A small positive effect for enrichment was found; standardized mean difference 0.39 (95% confidence interval 0.05–0.72; I2 = 3%; P = .02)
EE looks promising for CP, and therefore high-quality studies with well-defined EE strategies are urgently required.