Babies are the focus of a new mind-over-nappies research initiative at the University of Essex.The Essex Babylab – based in the University’s Centre for Brain Science –will investigate infant and child cognitive development, which involves their ability to learn and understand.
Leading the Babylab researchers will be Dr Silvia Rigato, from the Department of Psychology, who has extensive experience of research with young infants.
The research will help academics gain a better understanding of how typically developing children learn to perceive and act in the world around them.
Some of the first studies planned will use EEG (electroencephalogram) head nets which record the natural brain activity and eye tracking software to learn about babies’ recognition of other people and infant learning about our multisensory world.
“We understand that babies won’t want to sit around too long with head nets on because they would rather be crawling around, so we have to be clever at designing our studies so they are simple, fun and interesting but also something we can get data from,” said Dr Rigato.
“This type of research is challenging because you want the young participants to stay happy and you have to wait until the time is right for them. That is why the actual study and recording is only about five minutes long.”
The research team is registering children from local nurseries but is keen for more babies aged 0-2 to be registered for forthcoming studies. As Dr Rigato stressed, the experiments are not invasive or stimulating, they are purely recording what the children do.
The infants will be invited to take part in a selection of games where they will be able to look or grasp at several interesting images, whilst older children are given different objects in more interactive situations.