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The baby scientists taking on ADHD

Funding programmePsyIMPACT

Funding period2014 - 2017

InstitutionBirkbeck University

CountryUnited Kingdom

Can state-of-the-art eye-tracking techniques help young children at a higher risk of developing ADHD?

The project

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects up to 5% of children, and impacts everything from attention span to behaviour. Symptoms start during infancy, but ADHD is unlikely to be diagnosed until much later.

Even if it is identified when children are very young, drug treatments are only suitable for older children. And psychological therapies that start after diagnosis tend to have limited success.

Our researchers and a team from King’s College London and the University of Southampton are using a radical approach to test whether eye-tracking technology can help fill the gap in support for young people.

Researchers and baby scientists at the Birkbeck Babylab

The process

In a previous research project, the team has already shown that eye tracking can help to increase concentration and attention span in young children.

An eye tracker shows where children are looking on a computer screen, and what they see changes depending on where they look. Focusing on specific areas for longer means they see more rewarding images.

Our researchers are now testing if this approach can improve concentration in children at risk of ADHD, and at what the effects are on early signs of ADHD.

They’re working with 50 ten-month-olds. Half will get 12 sessions of attention training treatment at home. For comparison, the other half will watch cartoons. Follow-up assessments will then take place when the children are aged 24 and 36 months.

The potential

By attempting to prevent ADHD symptoms from developing, this project takes a radical new approach and has potentially profound consequences for young children who are at risk of the condition.

And because the treatment is computer-based, it has the potential to offer vital support, wherever children are based.

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