Funded Grants

Expanding the Horizons for Research at the Developmental Interface of Brain, Body, and Behavior

The study of human infants presents an ideal workspace for understanding how skilled action emerges from the brain-body-world system. There is a key need for research in this area to combine the application of infant brain imaging methods with detailed observations of behavior in ecologically appropriate contexts. A growing movement in developmental science to develop methods for data collection outside the laboratory has gained momentum due to recent events related to COVID-19. The proposed research involves the development of methods for collecting and analyzing videos of infant grasping actions that are recorded by caregivers in the home setting using a mobile device. Employing a longitudinal design, we will combine data from these home assessments with data from a laboratory visit that employs electroencephalographic (EEG) methods to tap into novel measures of neural body representations as well as detailed multi-method analyses of infant behavior. The proposed work focuses on developmental changes in skilled grasping that occur between 6 and 14 months of age, specifically changes in the way that the different fingers of the hand are involved in grasping objects. We will analyze the changing patterns of finger involvement derived from the video data alongside an EEG measure that taps into neural representations of the digits of the hand and the relations among them. This innovative combination will allow a data-driven, multivariate investigation of the brain-body-behavior interface. In doing so, it will enable the researchers involved to work at new boundaries and thus extend their research in impactful ways.

We will carry out an ecologically valid evaluation of grasping skills at home, utilizing video data collected by caregivers using a novel video app and analysis methods that will be developed specifically for this project. We will couple the longitudinal video data from the home setting with a detailed, multi-method quantification of grasping actions and EEG recording in the laboratory at 14 months of age. Guided by new advances in understanding the development of grasping in infancy as well as novel technological developments in video technology and mobile app development, we will relate differential changes in finger involvement in grasping between 6 and 14 months of age to the patterning of the infant somatosensory mismatch negativity (sMMN) response to tactile stimulation of pairs of digits. We will use multivariate analyses to examine the neural data alongside manual grasping skills as derived from video coding (including kinematics), standardized assessment, and parental report.

The research team combines an investigator with a proven record of work using infant EEG to probe aspects of body representations (Peter Marshall) and a researcher with expertise in kinematic analyses and strong connections to developers of novel methods for the collection of video data outside the laboratory (Valentina Parma). One product of this novel and potentially synergistic collaboration will be a new tool to collect and analyze behavior using video collected in home settings. Other key outcomes of the proposed project will come through an enhanced understanding of the dynamic developmental interface of brain, body, and behavior in human development.