Image by Angela Duxbury

How do pregnancy, birth and parents 

shape the newborn brain?

 
How do babies learn from other humans?
Newborn

Working together with parents and expectant parents, our research investigation will  shed light on the earliest experiences in a child's life, from the womb to their formative social interactions. Being born is one of the most dramatic of human experiences. The fetus moves from the protection and relative monotony of the mother’s womb into a world of sound, colour, touch, smell, and taste. Faces and voices are among the most prominent new experiences and this first taste of our social world triggers rapid changes in brain function over the first days, weeks and months of early life. We welcome families to be part of our project: we will partner with over 100 families, sharing in their journey from pregnancy to parenting.

 

 Aims of PIPKIN: Perinatal Imaging Partnership with Families
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The PIPKIN project tracks babies development from the third trimester of pregnancy to the first few months of family life, with the aim of understanding how infant brain responses are shaped by social interactions and the environment around the child. We are interested in how variability emerges in individual infants, and how diversity of experience and social norms influence babies' brains and behavior. The project is seeking infants from a range of backgrounds, with the goal of designing family-friendly perinatal interventions in partnership with parents, community NCT groups and clinicians. We hope to use what we learn from this project to support caregivers and babies, so families from every walk of life have the best possible opportunity to develop their full potential.

 

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Our study involves combining methods parents might use to document their babies health and milestones (diaries, videos and questions) with measures used by researchers to record infant neural and behavioural activity. Participating families visit the Rosie Hospital at Addenbrooke's for an ultrasound to study the baby in the womb; after birth, researchers visit the family at home, using mobile, safe equipment to image the baby's brain, such as Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) and Electroencephalography (EEG).  A final visit takes place at the Cambridge Babylab when infants are five months old.

> Learn more about these imaging approaches

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The PIPKIN project is the brainchild of experts in developmental cognitive neuroscience based at the University of Cambridge, Dr. Sarah Lloyd Fox, Lecturer and UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and Mark Johnson, Head of Department and Kings College Fellow. Both principle investigators draw upon decades of experience supervising and conducting longitudinal, international neuroimaging studies on babies, examining the basis of face processing, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and individual differences in social and sensory development. Co-investigator Dr. Topun Austin provides clinical Consultant Neonatologist at Cambridge University Hospital. Our team of research associates and graduate students have experience in antenatal and neural imaging with babies from diverse backgrounds and in multiple settings, including homes, hospitals and lab. PIPKIN is supported by an MRC Programme Grant and UKRI Fellowship.

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