UEL Baby Dev Lab

Oscillatory Neural and Autonomic Correlates of Social Attunedness (ONACSA)

Oscillatory Neural and Autonomic Correlates of Social Attunedness (ONACSA)

ERC Grant number 853251

ONACSA oscillations

Early development starts in the womb. Then we are born; spend our first few months in our parents’ arms; and gradually transition towards childcare, nursery or school. Perhaps the most important transition that we go through during early life is the shift from co-regulatory control, shared between parent and infant, towards self-regulatory control, managed by the child on their own. So how can we understand, and study, this transition?

One currently popular approach is to design lab-based experiments to measure how a child’s capacity for internally driven (endogenous) control develops over time. But this approach has a lot challenges. So in this project, we are trying to take a different approach. We’re trying to move away from approaches that aim to locate abstract mental functions within an individual, and towards embodied approaches that study instead how an individual inter-relates with the world around them.

Instead of trying to measure abstract, internal constructs, we’re instead thinking in terms of new metaphors, that reflect this inter-relatedness: such as ‘children as oscillators’ or ‘children as reverberators’. So we won’t be collecting too much data using traditional experimental paradigms to measure abstract mental constructs. Instead, we’ll be collecting real-world, naturalistic data with as little experimental interference as possible – trying to collect as many different measures, across different timescales, as we can. This will include home recordings using wearables:

ONACSA data visualisation from wearable devices

And free-flowing naturalistic interactions with EEG and fNIRS in the lab:

ONACSA data visualisation from lab session

The six PhDs working on the project are all taking different approaches, running different analyses based on the same naturalistic data. In different ways, they all aim to understand how endogenous control emerges from, and is expressed through, the inter-relationship between a child and their everyday environment.

Marta Perapoch Amadó is looking at allostasis: how we correct for moment-by-moment changes in the outside world to maintain stability in the face of change. She is looking at how this process develops initially through parent-child interactions (co-regulation), and increasingly becomes governed by the child alone over time (self-regulation). You can read more about her project here.

Emily Greenwood is also looking at the transition from co-regulation to self-regulation. But she is concentrating on atypical development: how co-regulatory processes can develop atypically in some parent-child dyads, and how this affects the child’s developing capacity for self-regulation over time. You can read more about her project here.

James Ives is taking a different approach. Rather than looking at time series (i.e. how a child’s previous state predicts their subsequent state, as Marta and Emily are doing), he is instead looking at temporal patterning and rhythms in a child’s everyday environment. In particular he is looking at how a child’s internal rhythms entrain to environmental rhythms. You can read more about his project here.

Pierre Labendzki is also looking at temporal patterns and regularities, but in a different way. Rather than looking at the predictability of a signal, by measuring oscillatory activity, he is instead looking at unpredictability in the environment, by measuring entropy. He is looking at how environmental unpredictability affects early development. You can read more about his project here.

The final two PhDs also look at environmental entrainment, but from different, more cognitive, perspectives.

Narain Viswanathan is looking at how behavioural mimicry develops through our everyday real-world interactions. He is measuring mimicry of vocalisations and facial expressions in lab and home settings, to understand how mimicry develops, and how it drives parent-child entrainment and synchrony. You can read more about his project here.

Tom Northrop is looking at the temporal patterning of real-world events in a different way. He is studying how our ability to parse real-world behaviours into comprehensible and predictable inter-related events affects our attention patterns – to understand better how comprehensibility and predictability affects real-world endogenous control. You can read more about his project here.

We hope that these combined projects will provide a variety of important new perspectives on how endogenous control emerges from, and is expressed through, the inter-relationship between a child and their everyday environment. ONACSA oscillations 2

Latest publications

  1. Wass, S., Perapoch Amadó, M., & Ives, J. (2022). Oscillatory entrainment to our early social or physical environment and the emergence of volitional control. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878929322000469#!