General Information

What does that CAT Lab study?

The CAT Lab studies how children respond to social and emotional situations in their lives. In addition, we study what tools (like attention) children use to deal with these events. We are interested in how this happens at the level of the body (biology), brain (behavior), and mind (cognition).

What ages are you looking for?

We conduct multiple studies with children of various ages. We are currently recruiting children between the ages of 9 and 12 years, 5 and 6 years, and infants 4 to 24 months. To learn more, please see Get Involved.

How can I schedule a visit?

If you have received a contact information form from us, please complete it and mail it back to us. If you have not received a contact information form, but are interested in participating Contact Us!

When are studies scheduled?

We know that families are very busy and it can be difficult to make time for research. As such, we do our best to schedule visits that are convenient for you. This includes both weekdays and weekends.

 

About participating

What will my child do?

Children of different ages will complete different tasks.

For children between the ages of 9 and 12:

You and your child will complete web-based (or paper if preferred) questionnaires about the child's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Your child will interact with an unfamiliar peer of the same age and gender while playing computer-based games and puzzles. Finally, your child will play computer-based games while we collect electrical signals (EEG) and neural processing data (fMRI). More information about EEG and fMRI is included below.

For children between the ages of 5 and 6:

You and your child will complete web-based (or paper if preferred) questionnaires about the child's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Your child will also play computer-based games while we collect electrical signals (EEG) and heart rate data (RSA). More information about EEG is included below.

For infants:

Parents will complete web-based (or paper if preferred) questionnaires about their child. Your infant will play multiple games with different toys and watch a series of pictures while an eye tracking machine records his or her eye movements. More information about standard eye tracking is included below.

Are there any risks or benefits to participating?

There are no risks associated with participating in our studies. While there is no direct benefit to your child, by participating you will be adding to our understanding of child development. Learn more about how you can Make a Difference through participation in research.

Will I be with my child the whole time? 

Yes, if you wish to. We have multiple observation rooms where you can watch while your child participates in different components of the study.

 

About our research tools

What is EEG and how is it collected?

The electroencephalogram (EEG) is the natural electrical activity generated by the brain. We collect the EEG signal using a special cap as seen below.

What is fMRI and how is it collected?

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) measures activity in the brain by tracking the movement of oxygen. We collect fMRI data using an MRI machine as seen below.

What is a standard eye tracker and how does it work?

The standard eye tracking system collects data on where a child looks while pictures appear on a screen in front of him or her. The system works remotely and can be seen below. It does not attach to your child's head.

 

About your visit

Where are you located?

We are located at the Child Study Center at Penn State University. For a map and details, please see Contact Us.

Can I bring my other child(ren) with me to the study?

Yes! Depending on the age of the child(ren), they can either stay with you during the study or we can arrange to have one research assistant play with them in our Family Room. Please let us know before you come to the appointment.

Is parking available?

Yes. We'll be sure to give you a free parking pass for your visits.

What happens when I arrive?

When you arrive, you will be greeted by one of our research assistants. The researcher will escort you to the CAT Lab, explain the study in detail, and answer all your questions. The researcher will ask you to sign a consent form, and will give you a copy to take with you.

Will I be paid for participating in your study?

We do pay for participation. In addition, we give all children who participate in the lab portion of our studies a prize as a thank you for their participation.