Current Projects

A-n-T: Attention and Temperament in Infancy

This study examines the way attention may be linked to temperament and emotional behavior from the first years of life.  

Children ages 4-months to 24-months with a variety of temperaments will be included in the study.  Infants will view pictures of faces and a children's video in order to examine patterns of attention.  

We will use state-of-the-art eye-tracking equipment to assess where the infants are looking.  Infants will also play with a variety of objects and toys as a part of a standard assessment of temperament.  These data will will allow us to see how patterns of visual attention may be associated with social and emotional behavior over time.  Since this is a multi-step study, participating families will be paid for their time and effort.

iTRAC: Mobile eye-tracking as a tool for studying socioemotional development

This study examines how visual attention to environmental stimuli may be related to social behaviors. Children 5 to 6 with a variety of temperaments will be included in the study.

Children will wear a mobile eye-tracking system that will allow us to collect data as children interact with their environment. They will also complete computer based eye-tracking tasks. Additionally, children will have the opportunity to interact with a same-age, same-sex peer, allowing us to observe different patterns of social behavior.

Playdate: Social Decision-Making in Young Children

Young children navigate a complex social world, in which they give and receive both positive and negative feedback. In this study, 5- and 6-year-old children will participate in a computer-based ‘play date’ task modeled on daily social encounters.

Previous studies from our lab have shown that individual differences in attention may shape how children respond to social feedback. We will therefore ask children to complete two computer-based attention tasks involving faces and symbols. During each task, heart rate (HR), electroencephalogram (EEG) and event-related potential (ERP) recordings will be measured. These measures will allow us to examine how the body and brain respond to social feedback among healthy young children. We hope to use the results of this study to better understand the difficulties faced by socially anxious children.

Temperament and Social Behavior in Adolescence

This study examines the cognitive, social and psychiatric behaviors and outcomes of a sample of adolescents first recruited and selected when they were four-months-of-age for a longitudinal study at the Child Development Laboratory at the University of Maryland, directed by Dr. Nathan A. Fox. Infants were selected for their reactions to novel auditory and visual stimuli and were assessed at 9, 14, 24, 48, and 84 months of age. 

Their social and emotional responses to novelty were assessed as were their physiological responses (EEG and ECG) to challenge. Through the measurement of their responses to these tasks we have characterized their infant temperament and have observed how these temperaments remain stable or change over time.  These children, now between the ages of 18-19 are traveling to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in collaboration with Dr. Fox and Dr. Daniel S. Pine.  Participants are completing a series of tasks using fMRI. 

We are also examining factors that help or hinder the transition to college.  We are thus examining issues as varied as their attention bias to threatening stimuli, to their thoughts about romantic relationships.  The CAT Lab is working with UMD and NIMH to oversee testing, analysis, and publication.  We hope that our work will help expand our understanding of temperament into adolescence young adulthood and also enrich our understanding of this period in and of itself.


Past Projects

BRAINS: Attention and Social Behavior in Children

This study examines the way attention may be linked to social behavior and brain processes. Children ages 9 to 12 with a variety of temperaments will be included in the study. To start, children will have the opportunity to interact with a same-age, same-sex peer.

This will allow us to observe different patterns of social behavior. Then the children will complete computer-based attention tasks while collecting EEG and fMRI measures. This will allow us to examine how the brain reacts to attention tasks. Participating children will then repeat the computer tasks once a week in their homes. After four weeks, the children return to PSU and repeat the social interaction, the EEG, and the fMRI tasks. This study, will allow us to view attention over time and its effect on behavior and the brain.

early behavioral and psychophysiological correlates of social processing

This study examined individual differences in behavioral inhibition and attention. Participants were typically developing children between the ages of 5 and 6 years, screened for behavioral inhibition and attentional control based on maternal report. During the course of a single session, participants completed a variety of computer-based and social tasks.

In addition, electroencephalogram (EEG) and event-related potential (ERP) recordings were measured, and parental responses on surveys were collected. Children completed a number of computer games that measured individual differences in attention, using faces and objects with different emotional values. Children also completed a computer-generated 'playdate' paradigm, in which children gave and received social feedback. During each of the previously mentioned tasks, ERPs were recorded in order to examine biological links between attention and social stress. In addition, we measured each child's EEG activity at rest to determine how baseline EEG activity relates to performance on other activities. We also looked to see how children responded to disappointment and frustration. 

The data collected in this study should help us to understand the roles that attention and behavioral inhibition may play in the development of psychopathology.

Individual differences in deference

This study was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Vikram Jaswal of the University of Virginia, and aimed to examine individual differences in the way children respond to information from adults during both physical and social events.

Children between the ages of 30 and 42 months were asked to complete several short tasks with research staff, including watching and noting goldfish crackers as the slide through 'tubes,' talking about kids' favorite snacks, and playing computer games. Children were videotaped throughout their visit for later data analysis. In addition to these tasks, questionnaire data was collected through parent report. 

The goal of this study was to provide important information regarding temperamental links to children's deference and to their receptiveness to information. In the future, it is hoped that this study will provide a basis for a larger-scale investigation of these issues, with one specific goal being the development of targeted interventions for young children at risk for internalizing problems.