A team of Washington State University psychologists is looking for new parents in the Pullman/Moscow area to participate in a study investigating how parent‑child interactions influence the development of a baby’s brain and behaviors.

The study is led by WSU psychologist Masha Gartstein, an expert in early childhood development whose infant temperament research will be featured in an upcoming Netflix documentary.

“If you are interested in learning more about your baby’s temperament and how it might relate to his or her brain activity we need your help,” Gartstein said.

Participants in the study will be asked to complete questionnaires about their baby’s temperament, experiences of being a parent, and the bond with their child. Three short lab visits, when babies are six, eight, and 10 months of age, are also planned. During the lab visits, babies take part in a number of activities, including playing by him or herself and with a parent while wearing a small swimmer‑like cap on their head that is harmless and helps collect brain wave activity.

“Not only do parents and children enjoy playing a number of these games, they also contribute to our knowledge of child development at the same time,” Gartstein said.

Participation is expected to take about an hour and a half for the first visit and an hour thereafter. Participants will receive a t‑shirt, a toy, as well as a $15 gift card for their baby.

Why Study Temperament and Brain Waves in Infancy?

Social‑emotional development unfolds rapidly in infancy. For example, the social smile appears after two months of age, encouraging caregivers’ efforts, and inviting interaction. Around the same time, the infant begins to express different negative emotions, fear and anger, not just fussiness.

The infants’ ability to pay attention also develops rapidly during the first year of life. These changes in temperament have been linked to brain wave activity: continuous small electrical signals that brain cells use to communicate with each other.

Specifically, electroencephalography (EEG) has been shown to be a safe and reliable instrument for assessing infant brain wave activity, and we expect it to lead to important answers about temperament development.

Contact:

  • Masha Gartstein, WSU Department of Psychology, 509‑335‑4651, gartstma@wsu.edu