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Research project: INTER-STAARS

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Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental condition that significantly impacts on numerous life outcomes. Children with ADHD can have difficulty paying attention and concentrating. The best time to intervene is likely in infancy, before the disorder fully develops and when the brain is more pliable to positive environmental effects.


What does Inter-STAARS aim to do?


To test this idea we will undertake a randomized control trial (RCT) of a novel computer-based attention training treatment programme with infants at increased genetic risk of developing ADHD (i.e. those with a sibling or parent with ADHD).



Who can take part?

Infants are invited to take part if they:

1. Are less than 12 months old;

2. Have a parent and/or full sibling who have received a diagnosis of ADHD (this can be a research diagnoses)


An infant can not take part if they:

1 Have a serious medical or developmental condition;

2. Have a serious uncorrected hearing or vision problems


What will happen during the study?


Firstly, infants and their families will be asked to attend an initial assessment session at the Baby Lab in Birkbeck, University of London.


Secondly, infants will receive 12 weekly in-home sessions of computer-based attention training games over the course of 3 months. Previous studies have shown that these games can improve attention in typically developing infants. We are interested in whether such effects can also be seen in infants at risk for ADHD. The tasks link attention allocation (measured by infant gaze) to rewarding images and outcomes on the screen – thus reinforcing concentration and strengthening attention capacity.


What is a Randomized Control Trial (RCT)?


This study is an RCT. This means that infants taking part in the study will be randomly allocated to receive either the training games described above OR into a control condition. By having a control condition, researchers can see if the training games have had an impact on attention by comparing the results with the control condition.


Everyone involved in the study will be blind as to which condition the infants are in. This means that we won’t be able to inform parents about which group their infant is in until after the study is completed.


What does the Baby Lab visit involve?

A typical visit to the Babylab takes place over 5-6 hours, which includes time for meal and nap breaks. The infant will complete a number of short tasks and games, each examining a different area of development, and varying according to the age of your child. These may include watching animations on a screen or playing with a parent / guardian and the researcher. These tasks and games are designed to be fun and stimulating for babies. Parents/guardians will be present throughout and are welcome to ask questions at any time.

All expenses will be paid for and there is an option to stay overnight.


What do the home sessions involve?

During home sessions we will use an eye-tracker to record your baby’s eye movement patterns while they are playing games on a computer screen. Each home session will last approximately 50 minutes.


What does eye-tracking involve?

Eye tracking is a safe procedure to use with infants of any age. The process involves sitting the infant on the parent / guardian’s lap whilst they watch a number of interactive games. The infant’s eye movement will be recorded by the eye-tracker.

What will the control group receive?

Infants in the control group will not receive the attention control training. The control group will watch similar animations, but these are not designed to train attention.


Who is running the study?

The study will be run in collaboration with an ongoing study at the Birkbeck BabyLab called the Studying Autism and ADHD Risks (STAARS) project. Working alongside Birkbeck BabyLab on this study will be researchers from King’s College London and the University of Southampton. Birkbeck Babylab visits will take place at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development (CBCD) at Birkbeck College in Central London.


Who is funding the research?

This study is funded by a charity called: MQ: Transforming Mental Health. This study has been scientifically reviewed and given favorable opinion by MQ: Transforming Mental Health.


How will the data be used?

The data collected during the visits will be coded so that all identifying information is removed. We will use your child’s anonymized data to publish scientific reports with important discoveries. We will also communicate our findings to the public through our website and other sources. Published reports on the results will not mention individuals.


Can I leave the study?

You can choose to leave the study at any time.


Are there any risks?

We have reviewed the scientific literature on the possible adverse effects of short (30 minute maximum) exposure to TV clips and computer screens. We have concluded that there is no risk of adverse outcomes associated with taking part in the study.


Want to take part?

If you would like to take part in the Inter-STAARS study, please do not hesitate to contact the Southampton team. We look forward to hearing from you!


Contact us:

Telephone: 02380 592655









Related research groups

Developmental Brain-Behaviour Laboratory (DBBL)
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