Sighted Infants of Blind Parents


At the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development (CBCD), we are studying the development of sighted infants of blind parents. Below is a description of the study and an outline of what would be involved should you choose to participate. Further information on the study can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions section.

Why are we doing this study?

Infants have an amazing capacity to learn from adults. Such capacity for social communication develops rapidly in the first few years of life. The main purpose of our study is to explore how sighted babies with blind parents develop the brain mechanism for social communication. This study will help us to understand how babies with blind parents develop the skills for social communication. Moreover, we hope this study will tell us about the development of the infant brain, which adapts to their social environment and develops the skills to process and respond to the physical and social world, which is necessary for their life.

What does the study involve?

We are recruiting babies up to 12 months of age for this study. If you wish to participate, we will invite you and your child to visit us at the Babylab one to three times between the age of your baby's recruitment and 12 months of age. Before your visit to the Babylab, we will phone you to gather information such as your baby’s date of birth and information on your sight loss.  You are also welcome to phone us at any time before the visit with any questions you might have.

What will happen during your visit?

Your child will complete a number of short tasks and games, each examining a different area of development. This will include watching animations on a screen while sitting in your lap or playing with you and the researcher. These tasks and games are designed to be fun and stimulating for babies. You will be present with your child throughout and are welcome to ask questions at any time.  Some sessions will be recorded onto videotape. These recordings will only be viewed by centre staff. You may decline to have your child’s videotape retained for viewing by others if you wish.  Participation in this study is entirely voluntary, and you may choose to end the session at any time.

Some detailed descriptions of the tasks and games

Task 1: Scanning faces and objects

In this task we will be looking at how babies scan faces and objects, i.e., how long they look at different regions of the face such as the eyes or the mouth. We will do this using an “eye-tracker”, which is a small camera that records the babies’ eye movements while they look at the screen.

Task 2: Faces and objects

For this computer task we will be recording naturally occurring brain activity by placing a non-invasive “hairnet” very gently on your child’s head.  The “hairnet” has little sponge-covered sensors attached to it that record the brain’s natural activity.  Nothing comes out of the sensors - it is like a thermometer which takes your temperature but cannot change your temperature.  The hairnet is very quick to put on and is comfortable to wear.  Once the net is in place your child is presented with pictures of a woman’s face on a computer monitor, either looking straight towards your child, or looking away. Pictures of objects are also presented. This task looks at the differences between how babies react to human eye contact and looking at objects.

Task 3: Follow me

In this task your child will see a series of films, in which an actress looks at one of two objects. Sometimes the actress communicates with your child by making eye contact or speaking to them before looking at the object, but on other occasions the actress doesn’t communicate with the baby. We will record your baby’s eye movements with the eye tracker, so that we can measure exactly where the baby is looking.

Task 4: Fun and games with parent

In this part of the study, we will ask you to play with your child for a few minutes the way you normally would. This will tell us about the child’s natural behaviour and his or her responses to everyday play situations.

Task 5: Fun and games with researcher

In this task, the researcher will play a series of short games with the child that will examine their response to visual and auditory stimuli, such as moving toys or hearing her/his name called. The games are designed to look at visual, auditory and motor skills. During the task, the researcher will also ask you about certain abilities your child displays which may be difficult to observe during this short session.

Further Information about Participating

We always adapt research sessions to each child’s individual needs. This means that we take as many breaks as your child needs to feed, rest, or play. We will make your visit as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. All information collected about your child during the course of the research will be kept strictly confidential. This means we will only tell those who have a need or right to know. Any information about your child will have names and addresses removed so that your child cannot be identified. Instead an anonymous code number will be used for us to identify your child’s file. Published reports on the basis of results from this study will not mention individuals. We will request your permission to contact you regarding future studies in our lab. If you give us permission, your contact information will be stored and kept confidential. You have the right to withdraw from the study at any time and your rights will not be affected by doing so.

Contact us!

If you have any questions about the research carried out at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development (the Babylab) at any time, please register your baby on-line, email Ms Leslie Tucker or phone the CBCD directly (020 7631 6325, Leslie Tucker).

For further information, please also visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.