UEL Baby Dev Lab

Temporal dynamics of arousal and attention in 12‐month‐old infants.

Wass, S. V., Clackson, K., & De Barbaro, K. 2016. Developmental Psychobiology

Research from the animal literature suggests that dynamic, ongoing changes in arousal lead to dynamic changes in an individual's state of anticipatory readiness, influencing how individuals distribute their attention to the environment. However, multiple peripheral indices exist for studying arousal in humans, each showing change on different temporal scales, challenging whether arousal is best characterized as a unitary or a heterogeneous construct. Here, in 53 typical 12‐month‐olds, we recorded heart rate (HR), head movement patterns, electrodermal activity (EDA), and attention (indexed via look duration) during the presentation of 20 min of mixed animations and TV clips. We also examined triggers for high arousal episodes. Using cross‐correlations and auto‐correlations, we found that HR and head movement show strong covariance on a sub‐minute scale, with changes in head movement consistently preceding changes in HR. EDA showed significant covariance with both, but on much larger time‐scales. HR and head movement showed consistent relationships with look duration, but the relationship is temporally specific: relations are observed between head movement, HR and look duration at 30 s time‐lag, but not at larger time intervals. No comparable relationships were found for EDA. Changes in head movement and HR occurred before changes in look duration, but not for EDA. Our results suggest that consistent patterns of covariation between heart rate, head movement and EDA can be identified, albeit on different time‐scales, and that associations with look duration are present for head movement and heart rate, but not for EDA. Our results suggests that there is a single construct of arousal that can identified across multiple measures, and that phasic changes in arousal precede phasic changes in look duration. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 58: 623–639, 2016.