BabyLab looks for participants for early language development research

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

BabyLab

The Oxford Brookes BabyLab is looking for babies and infants to participate in an innovative research project investigating how babies learn language and words

Dr Nayeli Gonzalez-Gomez from the Department of Psychology, Social Work and Public Health and lead researcher of the BabyLab is studying how infants learn their native language, how quickly they are able to learn new words and how this learning is able to support them later in life when learning words and language.

Carrying out studies like this give us a better understanding of how babies learn from a very young age when they aren't able to communicate through speech

Dr Nayeli Gonzalez-Gomez, Lead Researcher of the BabyLab at Oxford Brookes

Babies sit on their parent or caregiver’s lap in front of a computer screen and watch a video or a sequence of pictures. The amount of time they spend focussing on the images is measured by an ‘eye-tracker’, a special camera that uses infra-red light to create a reflection on the baby's eye, this technique allows the researcher to have a recording of exactly what the baby was looking at.

Dr Gonzalez-Gomez said: “Using this method, we are able to investigate a baby’s ability to learn new words.

“Recent results have shown that words containing sound sequences that occur frequently together in the language are learned at an earlier age than words with less frequent sound combinations, for example words like ‘bat’ are easier to learn than words like ‘tab’ because words starting with a ‘b’ followed by a ‘t’ are more frequent in the English language.

“Carrying out studies like this give us a better understanding of how babies learn from a very young age when they aren't able to communicate through speech.”

A BabyLab study in progress

The BabyLab itself is a fresh and warm suite of rooms specially designed to undertake a range of research with babies and young children with their parents or carers. The suites contain all the facilities parents may need when visiting the BabyLab including a nappy changing area and play area with soft furnishings and toys.

Laura, mum of 12-month old twins said of her experience at the BabyLab: “I really enjoyed visiting the BabyLab with my year old twins. The whole experience was game to them. After they had completed the experiments, I was fascinated to have a quick look at a depiction of how my daughter’s eyes had moved during one of the exercises.”

Rebecca, mum of a 14-month old girl added: “[It was an] entertaining morning out for my toddler and very informative. [I’m] fascinated and proud to see my little girl following what was on the screen. It appears she knows a lot more than we think!”

If you want to help Brookes BabyLab and be a part of the making of science, you can register your child (from 0 months to five years old) to participate by phone 01865 483 676 or by email babylab@brookes.ac.uk.

More information about the BabyLab studies can be found on the website.