These connections are fundamental for cortical processing and cognition .
Between 29 and 41 weeks, total brain volume is increased nearly 3-fold, cortical gray matter volume is increased 4-fold and cerebellar volume is increased 4-fold .
Optimising preterm infant neurodevelopment is a key aim of neonatal research, which could substantially improve long-term outcomes and reduce the socio-economic impact of VPT birth.
This study has the potential to give insights into the mother-baby relationship and any positive effects of infant massage on neurodevelopment.
In recent years the focus of improving preterm outcomes has shifted from increasing survival to minimising morbidity and improving neurodevelopmental outcomes [1, 3].
Long term neurodevelopmental abnormalities impact up to 50 % of these infants  and include motor disability (including cerebral palsy), reduced cognitive performance and behavioural problems .
The control group will receive care as usual (CAU).
Infants and their mothers will be assessed at baseline, TEA, 12 months and 24 months corrected age (CA), with a battery of clinical, neuroimaging and electrophysiological measures, as well as structured questionnaires, psychoanalytic observations and neurodevelopmental assessments.
The severity of the deficits is related to the degree of prematurity and the presence of neuroradiological injuries , however high rates of more subtle but nonetheless important neurodevelopmental abnormalities also occur in low-risk preterms without obvious brain injury [5, 6].
Even in late preterm infants, the effects of preterm birth on brain development are more significant and long lasting than previously thought [5, 7].