Sarah Lloyd-Fox

Honorary Research Fellow

Honorary Research Fellow Birkbeck, University of London

UKRI Future Leaders Fellow at University of Cambridge.

Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development
The Henry Wellcome Building
Birkbeck, University of London
London, WC1E 7HX

Phone: +44 (0)20 7079 0764
Fax: +44 (0)20 7631 6587
Email: at bbk dot ac dot uk


Research interests

- Developmental Neuroscience, 
- Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy
- Global Health
- Pathways of development associated with development disorders in infancy
- Impact of Environmental Adversity on development   
In 2019 I began a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow at the University of Cambridge to measure early brain function and behaviour across the perinatal period and understand how individual differences in neurodevelopmental trajectories relate to poverty associated challenges in the UK. During my fellowship I hope to use my research findings in partnership with community informed initiatives to develop novel early life interventions for global health contexts. In particular, I hope to optimise family-mediated interventions that bridge the transition between pre- to post-natal life and are tailored to suit the needs of individual communities.

My research focuses on the investigation of core early cognitive and neural mechanisms in infancy by pioneering the use of functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS). I have spent the last 15 years optimising fNIRS for use with developmental populations. Currently, a major focus of my work is to develop field-friendly neuroimaging and behavioural toolkits for use in low income settings. In 2013, I was instrumental in implementing the first proof of principle fNIRS studies in The Gambia ( am a lead investigator on the inter-disciplinary Brain Imaging for Global Health (BRIGHT) Project alongside Professor Clare Elwell (UCL) and Dr Sophie Moore (KCL). By mapping brain function in the first days and months of life, I hope to better understand how the world we live in mediates early brain specialisation and behaviour, and influences our early developmental trajectories.

I completed a PhD in developmental cognitive neuroscience at Birkbeck (part time 2006 - 2011) with Professors Clare Elwell (Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering at UCL) and Mark Johnson (Birkbeck). Through collaborations such as these I have had the opportunity to work at the cutting edge of my research field to address new questions and challenges.

Grant funding

Sarah has received grant funding from a variety of organisations including: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UKRI, Horizon 20-20, MRC, The Royal Society and the Simons Foundation. 

Knowledge Exchange

- Sessional lecturer for BSc and MSc courses at UCL, Birkbeck, KCL, LSHTM and University of Cambridge
- Co-organiser of annual fNIRS Training Workshops
- Recent public engagement activities include BBC 2’s Wonderful World of Babies, writing for the BBC Tiny Happy People website and BBC Online: The Secret World of babies.

PhD Students

Current students:
Dianna Ilyka, University of Cambridge, 2019 - present.
Former students:
Laura Katus, Institute of Child Health, 2015 - 2019.
Laura Pirazzoli, Birkbeck, University of London 2014 - 2019.
Maheen Siddiqui, Birkbeck, University of London 2015 - 2019.
Christine Bartram, University of Warwick 2014 - 2019.
Maria Laura Filippetti, Birkbeck, University of London 2011- 2015.


Curriculum Vitae

Affiliated lecturer, University of Cambridge, 2017 - present 

Editorial Board Member, Nature Scientific Reports, 2015 - present

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Birkbeck, University of London (FTE 0.8%), 2011 – present

Visiting Research Fellow, Central European University, Hungary, 2011.

PhD Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, 2007 – 2011 (part-time).


Media and Public Engagement

BBC Online: The secret world of babies. (posted 28th March 2018).

Babybrains – Early Development Matters. Globally. (posted 2nd February 2018).Interviewed for a science blog on infancy and parenting.

SciDevNet – Brain Imaging tool seeks signs of infant malnutrition (posted December 14th 2015).
Science and technology news for global development.

Understanding malnourishment (posted 14th September 2015). Article in The Psychologist profiling my role
as the lead psychologist in the BRIGHT study.

BBC World News Horizons 4, Episode 16 – The Brain (aired November 23rd, 2014). TwoFour Productions. In this TV documentary we are featured discussing our new research using fNIRS in a global health setting in rural Gambia to investigate under nutrition.

BBC Horizon – Living with autism (aired 1st April 2014) A documentary presented by autism expert Prof. Uta Frith and featuring the work we do at the Babylab to coincide with World Autism day.

BBC Worldservice Healthcheck - Babies’ Minds: The Truth about Life and Death (aired 13th July 2014). In this radio show we are featured discussing our new research using fNIRS in a global health setting in rural Gambia to investigate under nutrition.

UCL Engineering - Seeing signs of autism in infrared. (2013) In this short film we discuss the use of fNIRS in our research in the British Autism Study of Infant Siblings project.



Copies of articles can be found on my Research Gate profile

Peer reviewed journal articles

in press

Gui, Anna and Jones, Emily J.H. and Wong, C.and Meaburn, Emma and Baocong, X. and Pasco, G. and Lloyd-Fox, Sarah and Charman, T. and Bolton, P. and Johnson, Mark H. (2019)Leveraging epigenetics to examine differences in developmental trajectories of social attention: a proof-of-principle study of DNA methylation in infants with older siblings with autism. Infant Behavior and Development , ISSN 0163-6383. (In Press) Item availability may be restricted.

Perdue, K.L. and Jensen, S.K.G. and Kumar, S.and Richards, J.E. and Kakon, S.H. and Haque, R. and Petri, W.A. and Lloyd-Fox, Sarah and Elwell, Clare and Nelson, C.A. (2019) Using functional near-infrared spectroscopy to assess social information processing in poor urban Bangladeshi infants and toddlers.Developmental Science , e12839. ISSN 1363-755x. (In Press)

Pote, I. and Wang, S. and Sethna, V. and Blasi, Anna and Daly, E. and Kuklisova-Murgasova, M. and Lloyd-Fox, Sarah and Mercure, E. and Busuulwa, P. and Stoencheva, V. and Charman, T. and Williams, S.C.R. and Johnson, Mark H.and Murphy, D.G.M. and McAlonan, G.M.(2019) Familial risk of autism alters subcortical and cerebellar brain anatomy in infants and predicts the emergence of repetitive behaviors in early childhood. Autism Research , ISSN 1939-3792. (In Press)

Lloyd-Fox, Sarah and Blasi, Anna and McCann, S. and Rozhko, M. and Katus, L. and Mason, Luke and Austin, T. and Moore, S.E. and Elwell, C.E. (2019) Habituation and novelty detection fNIRS brain responses in 5 and 8 month old infants: The Gambia and UK. Developmental Science , e12817. ISSN 1363-755x. (In Press)

Milosavljevic, B. and Vellekoop, P. and Maris, H. and Halliday, D. and Drammeh, S. and Sanyang, L. and Darboe, M.K. and Elwell, C.and Moore, S.E. and Lloyd-Fox, Sarah (2019)Adaptation of the Mullen Scales of early learning for use among infants aged 5-24-months in rural Gambia. Developmental Science , e12808. ISSN 1363-755x. (In Press)


Katus, L., Mason, L., Milosavljevic, B., McCann, S., Rozhko, M., Moore, S.E., Elwell, C.E., Lloyd-Fox, S., de Haan, M., Drammeh, S. and Mbye, E., 2020. ERP markers are associated with neurodevelopmental outcomes in 1–5 month old infants in rural Africa and the UK. NeuroImage210, p.116591.


Blasi, Anna and Lloyd-Fox, Sarah and Katus, L.and Elwell, Clare (2019) fNIRS for tracking brain development in the context of global health projects. Photonics 6 (3), e89. ISSN 2304-6732.

Katus, L. and Hayes, N.J. and Mason, Luke and Blasi Ribera, Anna and McCann, S. and Darboe, M.K. and de Haan, M. and Moore, S.E. and Lloyd-Fox, Sarah and Elwell, C.E. (2019)Implementing neuroimaging and eye tracking methods to assess neurocognitive development of young infants in low- and middle-income countries. Gates Open Research 3 , p. 1113. ISSN 2572-4754.


Braukmann, R. and Lloyd-Fox, Sarah and Blasi, Anna and Johnson, Mark H. and Bekkering, H.and Buitelaar, J.K. and Hunnius, S. (2018)Diminished socially selective neural processing in 5-month-old infants at high familial risk of autism. European Journal of Neuroscience 47 (6), pp. 720-728. ISSN 0953-816X.

Hakuno, Y. and Pirazzoli, L. and Blasi, Annaand Johnson, Mark H. and Lloyd-Fox, Sarah(2018) Optical imaging during toddlerhood: brain responses during naturalistic social interactions. Neurophotonics 5 (1), ISSN 2329-423X.

Pirazzoli, Laura and Lloyd-Fox, Sarah and Braukmann, R. and Johnson, Mark H. and Gliga, Teodora (2018) Hand or spoon? Exploring the neural basis of affective touch in 5-month-old infants. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience 35 , pp. 28-35. ISSN 1878-9293. Item availability may be restricted.

Siddiqui, M.F. and Lloyd-Fox, Sarah and Kaynezhad, P and Tachtsidis, I and Johnson, Mark H. and Elwell, C.E. (2018) Changes in Cytochrome-C-Oxidase account for changes in attenuation of near-infrared light in the healthy infant brain. In: Thews, O. and LaManna, J.C. and Harrison, D.K. (eds.) Oxygen Transport to Tissue XL. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology 1072 1072. Springer, pp. 7-12. ISBN 9783319912851. Item not available from this repository.


Siddiqui, M.F., Lloyd-Fox, S., Kaynezhad, P., Tachtsidis, I., Johnson, M.H. & Elwell, C.E. (2017) Non-invasive measurement of a metabolic marker of infant brain function. Nature Scientific Reports, 7, 1330:1-6. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-01394-z

Lloyd-Fox, S., Blasi., A., Pasco, G., Gliga, T., Jones, E.J.H., Murphy, D.G.M., Elwell, C.E., Charman, T. & Johnson, M.H. and The BASIS Team (in press) Cortical responses before six months of life associate with later autism. European Journal of Neuroscience. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13757

Lloyd-Fox, S., Begus, K., Halliday, D., Pirazzoli, L., Blasi, A., Papademetriou, M., Darboe, M.K., Prentice, A.M., Johnson, M.H., Moore, S.E., & Elwell, C.E. (2017) Cortical specialisation to social stimuli from the first days to the second year of life: A rural Gambian cohort. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience25, 92-104.

Sethna, V., Inês Pote, I., Wang, S., Gudbrandsen, M., Blasi, A., McCusker, C., Daly, E., Perry, E., Adams, K.P.H., Kuklisova-Murgasova, M.,  Busuulwa, P., Lloyd-Fox, S., Murray, L., Johnson, M.H. Williams, S.C.R., Murphy, D.G.M., Craig, M.C. & McAlonan, G.M. (2017) Mother-infant interactions and regional brain volumes in infancy: an MRI study. Brain Structure and Function. 222, 2379-2388.


Begus, K., Lloyd-Fox, S., Halliday, D., Papademetriou, M., Darboe, M.K., Prentice, A.M., Moore, S.E. & Elwell, C.E. (2016) Using fNIRS to study working memory of infants in rural Africa. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 876, 273-279.


Blasi, A., Lloyd-Fox, S., Sethna, V., Brammer, M., Mercure, E., Murray, L., Williams, S., Simmons, A., Murphy, D.G., & Johnson, M.H. (2015) Atypical processing of voice sounds in infants at risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Cortex, 71, 122-133.

Lloyd-Fox, S., Széplaki-Köllőd, B., Yin, J. & Csibra, G. (in press) Are you talking to me? Neural activations in 6-month-old infants in response to being addressed during natural interactions. Cortex, 70, 35-48.

Filippetti, M.L., Lloyd-Fox, S., Longo, M. R.,  Farroni, T. & Johnson, M.H. (in press) Neural Mechanisms of Body Awareness in Infants. Cerebral Cortex. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhu261

Begus, K., Lloyd-Fox, S., Halliday, D., Papademetriou, M., Darboe, M.K., Prentice, A.M., Moore, S.E. & Elwell, C.E. (in press) Using fNIRS to study working memory of infants in rural Africa. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology.

Lloyd-Fox, S., Wu, R., Richards, J.E., Elwell, C.E. & Johnson, M.H. (2015) Cortical Activation to Action Perception is associated with action production abilities in young infants. Cerebral Cortex, 25(2), 289-297.


Lloyd-Fox, S., Richards, J.E., Blasi, A., Murphy, D.G.M., Elwell, C.E. & Johnson, M.H. (2014) Co-registering fNIRS with underlying cortical areas in infants. Neurophotonics. 1(2), 025006.

Lloyd-Fox, S.*, Blasi, A., Elwell, C.E. & Johnson, M.H. (2014) Test-retest reliability of fNIRS in infants. Neurophotonics. 1(2), 025005.   (* Lloyd-Fox and Blasi are joint first authors.)

Krishnan, S., Leech, R., Mercure, E., Lloyd-Fox, S. & Dick, F. (in press) Convergent and divergent fMRI responses in children and adults to increasing language production demands. Cerebral Cortex.

Papademetriou, M., Lloyd-Fox, S., Everdell, N.L., Darboe, M.K., Moore, S.E. Prentice, A.M. & Elwell, C.E. (2014) Optical imaging of brain activation in Gambian infants. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. 812, 263-269.

Lloyd-Fox  S., Papademetriou, M., Darboe, M.K., Everdell, N.L., Wegmuller, R., Prentice, A.M., Moore, S.E. & Elwell, C.E. (2014) Functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to assess cognitive function in infants in rural Africa. Nature Scientific Reports 4, 4740. 

Southgate, V., Begus, K., Lloyd-Fox, S. & Hamilton, A. (2014) Goal representation in the infant brain. NeuroImage, 85, 294-301.


Dick, F., Lloyd-Fox, S., Blasi, A., Elwell. C.E. & Mills, D. (2013) Neuroimaging Methods In Mareschal, D., Butterworth, B. & Tolmie, A. (eds) Educational Neuroscience. Wiley Blackwell: Chichester, UK.

Fillippetti, M.L., Johnson, M.H., Lloyd-Fox, S., Dragovic, D. & Farroni, T. (2013) Body perception in newborns. Current Biology, 23, 2413-2416.

Grossmann, T., Lloyd-Fox, S. & Johnson, M.H. (2013) Brain responses reveal young infants’ sensitivity to when a social partner follows their gaze. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 6, 155-161.

Farroni, T., Chiarelli, A., Lloyd-Fox, S., Massaccesi, S., Merla, A., Gangi, V., Mattarello, T., Faranguna, D. & Johnson, M.H. (2013) Infant cortex responds to other humans from shortly after birth. Nature Scientific Report, 3, 2851.

Cristia, A., Dupoux, E., Hakuno, Y., Lloyd-Fox., S., Schuetze, M.,, Kivits, J., Bergvelt, T., van Gelder, M., Fillipin, L., Charron, S. & Minagawa-Kawai., Y. (2013) An online database of infant functional near infrared spectroscopy studies: a community-augmented systematic review. PLOS One, 8, e58906. 

Lloyd-Fox, S., Blasi, A., Elwell, C.E., Charman, T., Murphy, D. & Johnson, M.H. (2013) Reduced neural sensitivity to social stimuli in infants at risk for autism. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B, 280, 20123026. 


Correia, T., Lloyd-Fox, S., Everdell, N., Blasi, A., Elwell, C., Hebden, J.C. & Gibson, A. (2012) Three-dimensional optical topography of brain activity in infants watching videos of human movement. Physics in Medicine & Biology, 57, 1135-1146. 

Papademetriou, M.D., Richards, J., Correia, T., Blasi, A., Murphy, D.G., Lloyd-Fox, S., Johnson, M. & Elwell, C.E. (2012) Cortical Mapping of 3D Optical Topography in Infants. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 985.


Lloyd-Fox, S., Blasi, A., Mercure, E., Elwell, C.E. & Johnson, M.H. (2011) The emergence of cerebral specialisation for the human voice over the first months of life. Social Neuroscience7, 317-330. doi:10.1080/17470919.2011.614696. 

Blasi, A., Mercure, E., Lloyd-Fox, S., Thomson, A., Brammer, M., Sauter, D., Deeley, Q., Barker, G.J., Renvall, V., Deoni, S., Gasston, D., Williams, S.C.R., Johnson, M.H., Simmons, A. & Murphy, D. (2011) Early specialization for voice and emotion processing in the infant brain. Current Biology21, 1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.06.009 

Lloyd-Fox, S., Blasi, A., Everdell, N., Elwell, C.E. & Johnson, M.H. (2011) Selective cortical mapping of biological motion processing in young infants. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23(9), 2521-2532. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2010.21598. This is a preprint version of the manuscript which has been accepted for publication in Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

Gervain, J., Mehler, J., Werker, J.F., Nelson, C.A., Csibra, G., Lloyd-Fox, S., Shukla, M., Aslin, R.A. (2011) Near-infrared spectroscopy: A report from the McDonnell infant methodology consortium. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 1(1), 22-46. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2010.07.004. 


Lloyd-Fox, S., Blasi, A. & Elwell, C.E. (2010) Illuminating the developing brain: The past, present and future of functional near infrared spectroscopy. Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews, 34(3), 269-284. 

Blasi, A., Phillips, D., Lloyd-Fox, S., Hui Koh, P. & Elwell, C.E. (2010) Automatic detection of motion artefacts in infant functional optical topography studies. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 662, 279-284.


Grossman, T., Johnson, M.H., Lloyd-Fox, S., Blasi, A., Deligianni, F., Elwell, C. & Csibra, G. (2008) Early cortical specialization for face-to-face communication in human infants. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 275, 2803-2811.

Lloyd-Fox, S., Blasi, A., Volein, A., Everdell, N., Elwell, C.E. & Johnson, M.H. (2009) Social Perception in Infancy: A near infrared spectroscopy study. Child Development, 80, 986-999. 

Johnson, M.H. & Lloyd-Fox, S. (2008) Do we study what parents want us to? Development Science, 11, iii - iv.

Bremner, A.J., Mareschal, D., Lloyd-Fox, S., & Spence, C. (2008) Spatial localization of touch in the first year of life: Early influence of a visual code, and the development of remapping across changes in limb position. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 137, 149-162. 

Blasi, A., Fox, S., Everdell, N., Volein, A., Tucker, L., Csibra, G., Gibson, A., Hebden, J., Johnson, M.H. & Elwell, C. (2007) Investigation of depth dependent changes in cerebral haemodynamics during face perception in infants. Physics in Medicine and Biology. 52, 6849-6864

Book Chapters

Lloyd-Fox, S. (in press) functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS). In Hopkins, B., Geangu, E. & Linkenauger, S. (eds) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Child Development. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK.

Lloyd-Fox, S. (2015) Researching the brain in neurodevelopmental disorders. In Van Herwegen, J. & Riby, D. (eds) Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Research Challenges and Solutions. Routledge Psychology Press, Hove, UK.

Dick, F., Lloyd-Fox, S., Blasi, A., Elwell. C.E. & Mills, D. (2013) Neuroimaging Methods In Mareschal, D., Butterworth, B. & Tolmie, A. (eds) Educational Neuroscience. Wiley Blackwell: Chichester, UK.