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Brain Imaging as a Measure of Future Cognitive Outcomes in Children

Brief Description
This is an exciting project introducing a neuroimaging toolkit in urban Bangladesh to study brain structure and function in infants and toddlers. Our Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-sponsored project is a collaboration between Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, University of Virginia, University College London, and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b).’s Hospital, University of Virginia, University College London, and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b).

We are using functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), electroencephalograms (EEG), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), eye-tracking, and behavioral measures (Mullen Scales of Early Learning and executive functioning tasks) to study the association between exposure to early adversities (e.g., biological, environmental, psychosocial) and cognitive development in children of Bangladesh. Although previous research in low-income settings have used coarse behavioral measures to gauge development, using imaging and behavioral assessments provides us with a robust set of tools that are portable, low-cost methods of assessing cognitive development and developing a database on early brain development, which can potentially be deployed globally, particularly in low resource settings where adversities are abundant.

Study Update!
Having set up the neuroimaging lab, our staff in Dhaka have been successfully collecting fNIRS, EEG, MRI, eye-tracking, and behavioral data on 6-month, 24-month, 36-month and 5-year-old cohorts! We have expanded the study to include a new high-income cohort who have come in for their 6-month and 3-year visits, and will soon be returning for their 2-year and 5-year visits. We have also included an exciting new executive function task at 5-years, CANTAB.

COVID-19 Supplement - HEALthy Brain and Child Development Study (hBCD)

Brief Description
As part of a greater initiative of the HEALthy Brain and Child Development Study, we now focus our efforts on better understanding stress associated with infection in pregnancy and look to provide better support children born in the time of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligibility for Participation
We invite pregnant mothers and mothers who have given birth within the past year, both with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and without a COVID-19 diagnosis, to enroll in this study.

Research Contact
Call 857-218-3011 or email familiesHEAL@childrens.harvard.edu

Participation Details
If you enroll before your child is born, all prenatal procedures will take place at virtually via online surveys. After your child is born, you can have two to four visits at the Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s Hospital. Your family can enroll at any age within the first year of your child's life and the visits will occur when your child is 3-, 6-, 9- and 12-months of age. If you are interested in participating, we will arrange a time that is convenient for you and your child. During the visits we ask you to fill out a few questionnaires and we will show your baby some videos while we record their eye movements. We’ll also use a special, non-invasive cap that lets us see their brain activity while they watch the videos. We offer $25 to you per session, so up to $150 in total, as a thank you for participating, as well as a free toy for your baby. We can also provide free parking or transportation and free childcare for siblings.

Full Description
The COVID-19 pandemic has reached nearly every continent across the globe with a profound impact in the United States. There is limited information regarding the susceptibility of pregnant women to more severe illness, with corresponding implications for their child. While there is uncertainty surrounding the evidence of vertical transmission, the consequential stress of contracting the infection while pregnant may pose a unique set of challenges for new infants and mothers in the current global, national, and local environments. Beyond the physical effects of the illness, contracting the virus during pregnancy is undoubtedly stressful. By using varied methods and following the same babies over their first year, we aim to create a comprehensive picture of how a prenatal COVID-19 diagnosis influences the earliest stages of development.