Brooke Welsford is the 2,000th baby to volunteer to help the Plymouth BabyLab with their research into how children pick up words and start to communicate. Since the age of five months she has been helping researchers at the University of Plymouth BabyLab to study how children’s language skills develop.
The BabyLab is the only way to gather data on how language grows in infants, and local parents in Plymouth have stepped up to the mark and taken part in a variety of important studies since it was established in 2006. Brooke’s mother, Catherine Voisey, said: “I signed Brooke up for the BabyLab because I was interested in how she would develop language. She has really enjoyed her visits and we are looking forward to taking part in some other studies in the future.”
Brooke has participated in a variety of projects over the past few months, including one evaluating how babies learn so many new words quickly; how they hear dialects; and how babies perceive different accents in a bidialectal home.
By testing children aged five months to six years, valuable data can be gathered which will show how the brain matures. Studies have examined whether children remember better in a group or on their own; how memories are formed; how is brain activity distributed in 11 month-olds; and how vocabulary develops.
Most recently, the BabyLab has been investigating whether bilingual and monolingual children acquire language differently. The aim is to provide the NHS with tools that could be used nationwide to determine whether bilingual children are developing normally or need extra help from a speech therapist. This is an ongoing study, and more children are needed aged between 14 months and 30 months, whether monolingual, bilingual or trilingual, so that accurate comparisons can be made.
“We are grateful to all the local parents who have contributed to our studies over the years,” said BabyLab researcher Caroline Floccia. “It is only by gathering such a range of data that we can produce accurate reports.”
"We are one of 50 Babylabs in the world, all interested in various aspects of children’s development. Thanks to this kind of research, scientists have accumulated important knowledge about children, so that now we have a much better understanding of brain diseases, autism, ADHD and dyslexia. Without parents being willing to contribute, we would simply not know all this."
As a thank you, each infant receives a Young Scientist certificate. There is also some help with travel expenses, BabyLab’T-shirts and balloons or Waterstones vouchers. If interested in registering for the BabyLab, parents should contact Floccia on info [a] plymouthbabylab (p) org or ring 01752 584865.