Durham University is looking for babies to take part in research
(31 July 2012)
Durham University researchers are looking for young babies of up to ten weeks’ old to take part in research which will help to understand how babies’ brains work.
It is hoped the research will provide a better understanding of how babies learn from a young age and will give clues about how autism develops in babies.
The tests, which are non-invasive, harmless and painless to the babies, will tell the scientists how babies learn from seeing other people do things, such as walking, and how their brains react when they do something themselves or see someone else do it first.
The babies, who will stay with the parents at all times, will ‘walk’ in a small bath, using their ‘walk reflex’. They will then watch moving computer images of people walking whilst their brain activity is being monitored which will show the researchers how the babies’ brains react to seeing someone walking. This will be compared to babies who have had no experience of ‘walking’ and see if this has made any difference to how babies learn about other people.
The babies will not be medically tested for autism.
At the moment, developmental psychologists do not understand how seeing things and doing things interact to create the best possible way to learn. How babies learn best is important for parents and carers and also gives a better understanding about how the brain reacts to social information, something which is crucial in the early detection of autism.
Dr Vincent Reid, a psychologist at Durham University who leads the research, said: "We are not doing any medical testing in this study but purely looking at babies’ brains from an academic point of view. We don’t yet know enough about how the brains of very young babies develop and how they react to things. It is vital we know more as we need to understand how learning from other people occurs at such an early age. More learning about the world takes place during infancy than at any other time in development and understanding how exactly this takes place is critical.
"It is important to stress that the procedure is non-invasive, harmless and painless. When babies come into the lab to take part, they will be held whilst ‘walking’ in the bath. After that, they will be fitted with a little cap with sensors on and shown computer images. The baby stays with its parents all the time and we simply record what the baby is doing and what’s happening inside his or her brain through the sensors."
Interested parents can find out more by contacting the Baby Lab on 0191 334 3266 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org