UEL Baby Dev Lab

Editorial perspective: Leaving the baby in the bathwater in neurodevelopmental research.

Wass, S., & Jones, E. J. 2023. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Neurodevelopmental conditions are characterised by differences in the way children interact with the people and environments around them. Despite extensive investigation, attempts to uncover the brain mechanisms that underpin neurodevelopmental conditions have yet to yield any translatable insights. We contend that one key reason is that psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists study brain function by taking children away from their environment, into a controlled lab setting. Here, we discuss recent research that has aimed to take a different approach, moving away from experimental control through isolation and stimulus manipulation, and towards approaches that embrace the measurement and targeted interrogation of naturalistic, user-defined and complex, multivariate datasets. We review three worked examples (of stress processing, early activity level in ADHD and social brain development in autism) to illustrate how these new approaches might lead to new conceptual and translatable insights into neurodevelopment.