Project area or title
A longitudinal investigation of the role of infants’ behavioural and neural sensory processing differences in mental health outcomes for infants and parents
Sensory processing impairments have been identified as a transdiagnostic risk factor across several psychiatric conditions, neurodevelopmental disorders and other at-risk groups including individuals born preterm. Given that sensory processing differences can be observed at birth and even prior to term, there is an urgent need for research into early infant sensory precursors of mental health difficulties in childhood and beyond. This PhD project will capitalise on a synergy between Prof. Bremner’s programme investigating sensory and multisensory processing in early human infancy, and Dr Isabel Morales-Munoz’s expertise in longitudinal investigations of mental health precursors in infancy, including infants’ sleep. The candidate will be trained in behavioural and electrophysiological (EEG) techniques for measuring sensory and multisensory processing (across vision, hearing and touch) in brain and behaviour (at the University of Birmingham-UoB BabyLab, Centre for Developmental Science), and will undertake cross-sectional and longitudinal research investigating relationships between infant sensory processing, maternal mental health, and transdiagnostic mental health outcomes in the infant (e.g., internalising and externalising tendencies), benefitting from Dr Morales-Munoz’s expertise in these approaches at the UoB Institute for Mental Health. Because of the clear links between sleep difficulties and both sensory processing differences and mental health problems, sleep measures and outcomes will be considered throughout. The PhD candidate will follow a cohort of infants from 4 months of age, following up sensory processing differences (measured in the BabyLab, as well as reported by parents), sleep, and mental health (in the infant and parent) at 6, 8, 12, and 18 months of age.
Children, Young People & Perinatal Mental Health
University of Birmingham