Temperament Over Time Study (T.O.T.S.): This project is a large longitudinal study investigating the individual and environmental factors associated with social development from infancy through childhood. Some of our participants have been involved in the study since they were four months old, others since they were two years old. We are currently seeing these participants for the 15-year visit! A BIG thank you goes out to all of the families that have helped make this project possible over the years! For more information on this study read our newsletter.


Bucharest Early Intervention Project (B.E.I.P.): Infants and young children raised in institutions are deprived of typical social and emotional stimulation and interaction as well as typical cognitive and language stimulation during infancy and early childhood. This places them at risk for a number of social and behavioral abnormalities such as disturbances of attachment, inattention/hyperactivity, externalizing behavior problems, and a syndrome that mimics autism. With funding from the John D. and Catherine T. Macarthur Foundation, investigators at Boston Children's Hospital (Professor Charles Nelson), University of Maryland (Professor Nathan Fox), and Tulane University (Professor Charles Zeanah) began studying the effects of a foster care intervention in institutionalized children in Bucharest, Romania. This project is the first random control intervention trial with institutionalized infants and children. We have followed two groups of young children through their 16th year of age. Half of these children were placed into foster care under our study’s supervision, while half remained in the institution. Over the course of the study, we are charting the effects of early deprivation as well as the consequences of early intervention on children’s cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional development. This study is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Program Project MH56193. You can learn more about this study here.


Functions and Development of the Mirror Neuron System (2P01HD064653-06A1): This is a large collaborative multi-site project funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The goal of this research program is to provide new insight into the development of foundational social-cognitive human capacities. To do so, this project integrates neural, behavioral, comparative, and clinical research methods to understand the development of one neural system that is thought to support social capacities such as learning from others’, imitation and social communication. This system, known as the mirror neuron system (MNS), responds both when we perform action and when we observe someone else perform that action. Thus, potentially providing a neural basis for social information processing relevant to developmental disorders such as autism. At UMD, we are particularly focused on the neural measures used to index the MNS in infancy and early childhood. Our work integrates measures of social-cognitive function in infants with neural measures and develops models of MNS dynamics during development. The products of the research will provide theoretical and computational insights relevant for understanding the interrelated deficits that characterize autism, and innovative tools for studying this clinical population. Collaborators on this work include: Amanda Woodward (University of Chicago), Elizabeth Redcay (University of Maryland), Pier Francesco Ferrari (CNRS Lyon), and Helen Tager-Flusberg (Boston University). Read more about the project here


Origins of Infant Temperament, Infant Imaging Study: The Child Development Lab at the University of Maryland is starting a new study to examine infant temperament and brain development! We are currently recruiting two-month-old infants to participate in up to four visit sessions (two at the Child Development Lab and two at either the Maryland Neuroimaging Center or the National Institutes of Health) before the infant's 14-month birthday. Compensation is provided for your time and participation in each session. Visits will include observational and behavioral assessments, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and the completion of questionnaires. If you would like more information, please call or email: (301) 405-2835, infantstudy@umd.edu


Bench to Bedside: The Bench to Bedside project is a collaborative research study between the Child Development Lab at the University of Maryland, and two intramural NICHD labs-- the Child and Family Research Section (CFRS) and the Section on Analytical and Functional Biophotonics. The scientific goal of the project, which is funded by the intramural research program at NICHD, is to combine two types of neuroimaging--electroencephalography (EEG) and functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS)--to characterize the mirror network in infants and how the integrity of that network relates to both typical and atypical development. Specifically, we are using EEG/fNIRS combination caps to capture changes in both cerebral blood flow and electrical activity in the brain while infants complete an action/observation paradigm that was developed in the CDL. In addition, social, communication, motor, and cognitive abilities will be measured using developmental assessments in order to investigate connections between development of the mirror network and acquisition of developmental skills. This will be completed in infants with typical development and also in infants at risk for a range of developmental delays. This is an important step in integrating the research on the mirror neuron network and its development in humans with the need to develop biomarkers for neurodevelopmental disorders in infancy. If you would like more information, please call or email: (301) 314-1492, esmith23@umd.edu


Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes in the Northern Plains Safe Passage Study Cohort (ECHO): NIH's ECHO program supports multiple, synergistic, longitudinal studies using existing cohorts to investigate environmental exposures — including physical, chemical, biological, social, behavioral, natural and built environments — on child health and development. The Safe Passage Study includes individuals on whom there is extensive physiological and behavioral data during the infancy period. These children will be assessed at 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 11 years of age on several EEG and ERP tasks.