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Durham University News



Babies to help reveal more about autism

(13 January 2010)

Baby takes part in brain research

Baby takes part in brain research

Researchers are looking for babies of up to two years old to take part in research to help understand how babies’ brains work.

It is hoped the research 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 see the world, how their brains process the things they see, and what this means to brain development.

The babies, who will stay with the parents at all times, will simply be shown images and observed and monitored for their behaviour and brain activity. They will not be medically tested for autism.

The psychologists, who are based at the University’s Queen’s Campus in Stockton, will use the confidential data to work towards detecting autism in very young babies by seeing how the brain works when babies are shown particular types of information.

Clare Hodges, mother of three-month old Isaac, from Stockton, has already taken part in the study. She said: “It was a fascinating experience. I think that it’s amazing how much my baby can do and if these studies help us understand that more, then that’s great.”

The researchers are looking for babies from newborn up to two years old. By observing and monitoring how babies respond to different images, sounds and actions, the scientists hope to get a better idea of how babies’ brains are different from each other and what this means.

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 so we can identify problems and developmental delays much earlier which could lead to earlier diagnosis of conditions such as autism.

“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 fitted with a little cap with sensors on and then shown either images or a video. The baby stays with the 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 more information at or by contacting the Baby Lab on 0191 334 0440.

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