Behavior and Sleep Screening (BASS):
This study seeks to understand young children’s sleep and behavior better. During this study, a researcher will interview you over the phone regarding your child’s sleep and behavior. At the end of the study, you will receive $10 and may qualify for and be invited to participate in a larger study on children’s sleep and behavior, PATH.
Parents Advancing Toddle Health (PATH):
This study seeks to determine which parent coaching programs are the most engaging and helpful for families whose toddlers have sleep and behavior problems. English and Spanish-speaking parents would receive one of three possible parent coaching programs: sleep, behavior, or safety. Over the course of a year, parents would participate in weekly video calls for the parent coaching program for two months, plus four research video calls.
Cultural Opportunities for Communication Outcomes Study (COCO):
This study examines how aspects particular to Hispanic families contribute to skills that help children succeed in school, like reading with ease, having a strong vocabulary, and paying attention while ignoring distractions. Participating in the study involves two visits: we will visit you once in your home, and you will visit us once, six months later, in the lab. During both visits, we will play computer games with your child, have them point and name pictures, and videotape you and your child playing together. During the lab visit, we will also measure your child’s brain activity with an electroencephalogram (EEG).
Infant Coping and Development Study (ICAD):
The hormone cortisol is found in the hair and saliva and provides a measure of biological stress. In this study, we are looking to see how cortisol levels change as 11- to 14-month-old infants cope with mild challenges. We will also be assessing other aspects of infant development, such as infant sleep, self-regulating behaviors, and social interaction. During this study, a researcher would do two brief infant behavioral tasks with your child, and we would ask you to play with your child and fill out some questionnaires. We would collect four saliva samples from your child throughout the visit and take a hair sample.
Developing Belief Network (DBN):
The BEE Lab is a collaborator in the Developing Belief Network, led by the University of California, Riverside, and Boston University. The five-year study examines the acquisition and transmission of religious cognition and behavior in 20 countries around the globe and the impacts of sociocultural context and social learning on these processes. The international network allows for mixed methods and cross-cultural comparisons of how cognition and beliefs develop. Our team leads the research site in Greater Tzaneen, South Africa, collaborating with Dr. Peter Rockers in BU Global Health and Dr. Denise Evans of the University of Witwatersrand. For more information on this innovative project, check out https://www.developingbelief.com/.
Neurocognitive Development of Infants in South Africa:
This project uses EEG measures of brain activity and eye-tracking measures to assess the neurocognitive development of infants in rural South Africa. Infants are enrolled in the project at birth, and we will assess them at ages 6, 15, and 24 months. This study will characterize the patterns of neural and cognitive development in this population, as well as examining whether an early intervention program improves these neurocognitive outcomes. International research like this project is critical to a deeper understanding of child development, especially among children who experience early adversity. By comparing findings across countries and cultural contexts, we can determine the ways in which brain development and cognitive development follow similar patterns for children worldwide, as well as the aspects of brain and cognitive development that are influenced by cultural and social context.
The neurocognitive assessment project is a collaboration with Dr. Peter Rockers of the BU School of Public Health; Dr. Jukka Leppanen of the University of Tampere, Finland; Dr. Aisha Yousafzai of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; and Dr. Denise Evans of the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.
Promoting Science-based Learning in Preschool Classrooms:
We are interested in understanding what approaches help preschool children learn science concepts and reflect on their strategy use to prepare them for the transition to elementary school. We tested the effectiveness of brief classroom-based interventions to help children’s science reasoning and reflective skills. In one project, we familiarized the children with a toy gears machine and showed them visual aids to represent strategies they could use to help them solve problems with the machine. We examined whether the children could use the strategies they had learned to solve a novel problem with the machine and whether they could reflect on how confident they were that they had solved the problem correctly. We are currently analyzing data and planning follow-up classroom-based studies to further develop young children’s conceptual understanding of science.
The science-based learning studies are conducted in collaboration with Dr. Kathleen Corriveau of the BU School of Education.
Stress Hormone Influences on Early Learning and Development Study (SHIELD):
Infants and young children rely on their parents’ support and comfort to help them cope with daily challenges. By protecting their young children from biological stress, parents serve an important role in supporting healthy brain development, laying the foundations for physical and mental health in adulthood. To fully understand the role of parents as stress buffers in early childhood, levels of the stress hormone cortisol can be measured from both saliva and hair. Salivary cortisol provides a good measure of short term stress and varies greatly from day to day; while hair cortisol is a new method that measures long term stress over several months. This new method of hair cortisol collection gives us the option to measure stress hormone levels from a single sample, and further research into this method will allow us to understand its role in studies involving young children.
The SHIELD study uses both saliva and hair measures to study cortisol levels in young children. Our first goal is to look at how saliva and hair measures of cortisol relate to each other and provide an index of both daily and long term levels. Our second goal is to understand how early life experiences relate to hair cortisol levels in young children. Finally, we are exploring how these hormone levels relate to a child’s cognition and learning. Results from this study will help us to gain a better understanding of how biological stress systems influence children’s learning and development, and the role of parents in helping to ensure healthy brain development.
For this study, we ask 1-year-olds and 3.5-year-olds to come in for a visit to the BEE lab. During the visit we play games to observe how the children interact with us and responds to new toys, as well as how they interact with a parent during free play. We also sample a few strands of hair from both child and parent. We will give parents a kit to collect the child’s saliva at home. Because sleep affects hormone levels, we also ask parents to place a small motion recorder on the child’s ankle overnight to measure sleep-wake times.
Mind and Attention Processes in Preschool (MAPP):
To succeed in school, children must use important skills like self-control and memory. Preschoolers show major increases in these skills between the ages of 4 and 5, which especially help them when they start school. Our first goal is to compare children’s brain activity during these games. This will allow us to understand whether children use the same or different parts of their brains for memory and self-control. Our second goal is to understand what experiences might help children have better self-control memory such as sleep quality and stress. To measures children’s physiological stress, we collect a few strands of hair to measure cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Cortisol stays in the hair for around 3 months, so by collecting a small amount of hair we will be able to see how cortisol relates to children’s self-control and memory. Results of this study will help us better teach children the skills they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
During the MAPP study, we ask 4 and 5 year olds to come in for a visit to the BEE lab. During the visit, children wear a soft EEG cap while they play a memory game and a self-control game. EEG caps help us take a closer look at what is happening in the brain as children play the games. Children will also play some other games pointing to pictures and will earn lots of stickers and prizes! Lastly, we collect a few strands of hair to measure the stress hormone cortisol.
Language and Mind Project (LAMP):
This study examined cognitive development in bilingual and monolingual children. Bilingual children learn two sets of vocabularies and grammars, and regularly juggle two languages in their minds. As any parent of a bilingual child knows, they are able to do this very well from a very young age, and are quickly able to learn to communicate in two languages, and also keep in mind different contexts in which each language is most appropriate to use! These experiences happening on a daily basis while children’s brains are rapidly developing seems to give bilingual children an advantage on certain skills that become important in their preschool and school years. For example, bilingual children are able to ignore distracting information in the same way that they ignore words and meanings in one language when thinking in the other. All the practice they have at switching back and forth between understanding and speaking two languages makes them good at other kinds of switching, such as switching between following two different rules depending on the situation. The LAMP study explored how knowing two languages affects cognitive abilities in the early schooling years. We asked 6- to 8-year-old children to come into the BEE lab and play computer games measuring concentration and memory, while we recorded their brain activity with EEG caps. The LAMP study helped us learn more about the developing cognitive abilities in monolingual and bilingual school children, especially how they may use different strategies on challenging tasks, reflected in different patterns of brain activity during the task.
Categorical Reasoning in Preschool Classrooms:
Reasoning about categories is important for math and science learning, and therefore this ability contributes to school readiness. We conducted this study in Head Start preschool classrooms, testing the effectiveness of a brief classroom-based intervention to teach children how to use categorical reasoning to ask effective questions to determine what item was hidden in a box. We then examined whether children could use the strategies they had learned to reason about both familiar and novel objects.
The Categorical Reasoning study was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Kathleen Corriveau of the BU School of Education.
Mapping Intelligence and Neural Development Study (MIND):
Children need to develop self-control skills, like paying attention and resisting impulsive behavior, in order to succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. Children sometimes are asked to use their attention skills while they are feeling calm, such as paying attention to a series of images flashing on a screen. In other situations, children need to use self-control when they are feeling more excited and emotionally invested in the outcome of a task, such as when good performance will lead to a reward. The purpose of this study was to explore how family context and biological factors influence the development of these self-control skills in preschool children. Children and parents played some computer games that measure memory and concentration. We also recorded EEG, a measure of brain activity, while children played a computer game sorting pictures by color and shape and earning sticker prizes. This allowed us to see what parts of the brain children are using to succeed at the game. The MIND Study helped us learn more about how preschool children develop self-control and attention skills.
Social Experiences and Early Development Study (SEED):
Infants are hard-wired to be interested in people and social interaction. They love to look at faces, and from early infancy they recognize and prefer the sound of their mother’s voice. Over the first year of life, they take an increasingly active role in social relationships, beginning to initiate social interactions and to direct their parents’ attention to objects that interest them. In the SEED Study, we are looking at social and brain development from 6 to 12 months of age. We are particularly interested in how a child’s early social experiences help to develop brain networks for processing social information like faces and voices. Another question we wanted to answer in the SEED Study is how moms help their infants to manage stress and maintain healthy biological rhythms. Infants’ stress hormone systems are not mature yet, and they need their moms to help them cope. To understand how this process works, we measured stress hormone levels in moms and infants and collected EEG from infants in social and nonsocial situations. The SEED Study helped us learn more about how the social brain develops.