Within WP4, a group of 5 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) will receive a comprehensive training focused on delivering cutting-edge scientific research. Each ESR will work on an individual research project. WP4 will test the influence of the social interaction process itself on ongoing and future brain development. We combine advanced methodologies (fNIRS, EEG, computational modelling) with longitudinal designs and infant twin modelling to generate fundamental new insights into the association between social interaction and brain function over developmental time. ESR11 will use optical imaging (fNIRS) to ascertain how emerging cortical specialisation in the temporal lobe relates to exposure to parent faces and voices, and the real-time dynamics of social interaction. This ESR will create new understanding of the profound influence of very early experience on newborn brain function. ESR12 will examine how parental sensitivity interacts with infant sensory reactivity to predict social interaction, both in real time and over longer periods of development. In interaction with Phier, ESR13 will build on advanced computational modelling techniques to develop a model of how infant and parent brains interact during social exchanges. Predictions from the model will be tested on data taken from existing cohorts. This will generate mechanistic insight into how the interaction process shapes brain development. ESR14 will use a unique longitudinal dataset to examine how dyadic measures of parent-child interaction shape the long-term development of the social brain from infancy to childhood. Finally, ESR15 will exploit data from a unique prospective study of infant twins to dissect genetic and environmental contributions to parent-child interaction and its influence on later development.

WP4 leaders: prof. Emily Jones (BBK) & prof. Mark Johnson (UCamb)

Individual ESR projects:

ESR11: How differences in the earliest social interactions drive emerging cortical specialization. Supervisors: prof. Mark Johnson and dr Sarah Lloyd-Fox (UCamb), site: UCamb, the UK.

ESR12: How dyadic interactions shape infant neural processing of sensory information. Supervisors: dr Przemysław Tomalski (UniWaw), prof. Emily Jones (BBK), site: UniWaw, Poland.

ESR13: Modelling the interaction between child and environment in the emergence of complex brain function; Supervisors: prof. Emily Jones (BBK), Peter Hellyer (Phier), prof. Robert Leech (KCL), site: BBK, the UK.

ESR14: Comparing prediction of childhood outcomes from dyadic versus individual parent and child interaction measures in siblings at familial risk of ASD. Supervisors: prof. Tony Charman (KCL), prof. Emily Jones (BBK), site: KCL, the UK.

ESR15: The contribution of genetic factors to early social interaction: A longitudinal twin study; Supervisors: dr Terje Falck-Ytter (UU/KI), dr Petra Warreyn (UGent) and prof. Sven Bölte (KI), site: KI, Sweden.