The University of Essex Babylab is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr Silvia Rigato and Dr Karla Holmboe will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Longitudinal trajectories in brain function in infancy”.
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Investigating infants development of attention and social skills during the first year of life
They will track the development in 60 infants from the last trimester of pregnancy through to 10 months old, and study their attention skills such as alertness monitored by heart rate, and social skills such as face perception monitored by eye tracking. In the future, these developmental trajectories will be used to help identify infants at risk of poor intellectual and social outcomes.
- The study involves a total of five visits.
- The first visit will take place during the last trimester of pregnancy.
- The other four visits will occur during the newborn period and at four, six and ten months of age.
- Participating families will receive a £20 voucher at each visit, for use in a range of shops (total of £100)
What happens when you visit the Babylab
1st Visit: During your last trimester of pregnancy.
- We will ask you to complete a questionnaire about yourself.
- We will ask you about your baby's movements.
- We will record the baby's heart rate.
2nd Visit: When your baby is between 0 to 2 weeks old.
- We will ask you to complete a brief questionnaire about baby's birth and baby's temperament.
- We will collect saliva from your baby using a soft sponge. This can give us some information in regards to how babies' brains work.
- We will observe you baby's behaviour using the Neonatal Behavioural Assessment System.
- We will run specific tasks to study basic attentional and social skills; this is accomplished by the child looking at a series of images on a monitor for a few minutes while we simultaneously record the heart rate and the natural brain activity.
3rd Visit: When your baby is 4 months old.
- We will ask you to complete a brief questionnaire of your baby's motor skills.
- We will run a slightly longer version of the attentional and social tasks (same as in the 2nd visit).
4th Visit: When the baby is 6 months old.
- We will ask you to complete a brief questionnaire of your baby's development.
- We will run a slightly longer version of the attentional and social tasks (same as in the 2nd and 3rd visit).
5th Visit: When your baby is 10 months old.
- We will run the attentional and social tasks employed in your previous visits.
- We will observe the general development of your child at this age.
If you are pregnant, or know somebody who is, we are interested in hearing from you. For more details, you can contact us:
Via email: email@example.com
Via telephone: 07548 189 463
Via Facebook: you can privately message us at
Or you can sign up to our secure baby participant database by following this link: