Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Chyela Rowe


The integration of polyvagal theory (PVT) and dance/movement therapy (DMT) may offer a nuanced approach to healing attachment between the parent-infant dyad in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This embedded modality offers insight into the manner in which attachment is influenced by a neurobiological basis, as well as how various somatic elements may assist in restructuring the autonomic nervous system to promote social engagement, self-regulation, and co-regulation. Therefore, this literature review explores the core elements of PVT and DMT, including the core rhythms of respiration, heart rate variability (HRV), heart rate, and vascular feedback/rhythmicity, and their influence on improving self-regulatory capacities of infants, and subsequently establishing co-regulation within the parent-infant dyad. In addition, this literature review explores the importance of rhythmic stimulation, starting from fetal development and continuing into infanthood, emphasizing the adverse effects that may occur if neonatal rhythmic stimulation occurs preemptively or inappropriately. Research demonstrates the importance of rhythm with regards to influencing physiological responses and that core rhythms maintain the ability to synchronize with external rhythmic stimuli, which assist in emotion regulation and achieved physiological states of safety. Therefore, research demonstrates the importance of internal and external rhythmic synchronicity, mediated by the ventral vagus, informing a possible pathway for DMT to promote social engagement and co-regulation, as well as encourage secure attachment between the parent-infant dyad in the NICU.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.




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