UEL Baby Dev Lab

European Consortium to Determine How Real-World Environments Influence Brain Development

European Consortium to Determine How Real-World Environments Influence Brain Development

We know that the environments in which a child grows up can influence how that child develops. But, because almost all current research measures behaviour and brain function by taking children away from these natural environments into controlled lab settings, our knowledge of how exactly early life settings shape development is surprisingly limited.

The aim of this COST action is two-fold. First, we will develop and test new open-source techniques that will allow us to measure objectively a range of different aspects of children’s early environment. This will include ‘low-level’ things such as noise and clutter in the home, whether the sights and sounds that a child sees are mainly natural or mainly urban, and so on. But we will also include aspects of the social environment – such as whether social partners mimic their facial and vocal affect when the child gets upset, how many smiles and happy sounding vocalisations they hear, and so on. Finally we will measure the physical environment – how much time does the child spend carried/strapped in/walking/free roaming during the day, what’s their physical proximity to others, how regular are daily routines, how much screen time/indoors/outdoors time, and so on.

The second part of the project will be to set up large-scale European-wide data collection networks to actually measure objectively children’s home environments in a way that hasn’t been measured before. Through this, we will aim to look at how we can move away from using human-defined constructs such as SES to measure environment variation, and towards data-driven ways of classifying environment variability. 

The consortium is due to start work in October 2023. If you are an academic who wants to take part you can sign up here.


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