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Shedding light on infant brain and cognitive development in Africa: The BRIGHT Project

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The first 1000 days of life (from conception to two years of age) are a critical window of vulnerability to exposure to socio-economic and health challenges (i.e. poverty/undernutrition). While only a fraction of our lifespan, it is characterised by prodigious physiological, psychological and physical change. Studies suggest that the presence of these risk factors in infancy has a lasting impact throughout the life course, however almost nothing is known about the neural bases of these early deficits. We have established a prospective longitudinal study (Brain Imaging for Global Health: BRIGHT Project) to chart early neurocognitive trajectories of brain development and behaviour at two parallel sites, in the UK and The Gambia. During the first two years of life, infants partake in a series of neurocognitive fNIRS, EEG , eye-tracking and behavioural assessments. In this talk I will highlight some of the key milestones, challenges and emerging findings from this work to date.


Sarah Lloyd-Fox is a Research Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London, an Honorary Research Associate at UCL and has recently become an Affiliated Lecturer at the University of Cambridge. Lloyd-Fox received a PhD in developmental cognitive neuroscience from Birkbeck, University of London in 2011. After a post-doc at the Central European University in Budapest, she returned to Birkbeck as a part time postdoctoral researcher. Her research focuses on the investigation of core early cognitive and neural mechanisms in infancy: in particular through the optimisation and application of functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) to study infant brain development. She is currently investigating how individual differences in neurodevelopmental trajectories associate with factors such as increased familial likelihood for developmental disorders (i.e. autism) and poverty associated challenges (i.e. undernutrition), with a major focus in developing field friendly neuroimaging and behavioural toolkits for use in low-income settings in the UK, Africa and Asia ( Lloyd-Fox’s work has garnered awards and funding, including an Association for Psychological Sciences Rising Star Award, the early career Wiley Prize in Psychology from the British Academy and grant funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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