Baby BRAIN Group

For our research, we make use of a broad range of methods.

With eye-tracking, we can examine how babies look at pictures and movies and process the visual information in those. We can measure, for example, whether participants make predictive eye movements (i.e. they focus on a certain location before a stimulus appears), how long they look at an unexpected stimulus and whether a stimulus causes a change in the size of the pupil. In the Baby Research Center, we have different models of Tobii eye-trackers that measure the gaze coordinates of both eyes in an x-y plane up to 300 times a second.

In looking time paradigms, like the visual habituation or the preferential looking paradigm, we measure how much attention infants pay to a stimulus when it is presented side by side with another, similar one or played many times in a row. Based on these procedures, we can determine whether infants can discriminate between two similar displays or whether they prefer one stimulus over another.

In our behavioural experiments, we invite the infant or toddler to play a little game with us. These games are designed in a way that they are fun for the children. At the same time, the children's behavior provides insight into their social-cognitive development and the mechanisms underlying it.

Using EEG we can explore how the brain responds to different stimuli or which brain processes occur when the infant is engaged in certain activities. We measure both the changes in event-related potentials (ERP) that occur after a particular event in the environment and the oscillatory dynamics in the EEG signal. We use an active EEG system with 32 to 64 electrodes.

Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a relatively new technique that can be used to record activity of specific cortical brain areas. fNIRS is non-invasive, relatively insensitive to movement and silent, which makes it perfectly suited for applying it with young children and infants. Here in Nijmegen, we have a system with 16 sources and 16 detectors.

For some of our studies, it is crucial to measure body movements precisely, for instance when studying the coordination of movements during social interaction. This can be done using a motion capture system. The participants are fitted with tiny light-weight makers that are tracked by high-speed cameras. We use a Qualisys system with Oqus cameras and passive markers.

We also use scientific modeling to better understand social-cognitive abilities. Through conceptual analysis, formal modeling, and simulations we examine the phenomena we are studying and use these insights to develop new experiments. This work, we do in collaboration with dr. Iris van Rooij and her Computational Cognitive Science group.