The BRIGHT Project

The Brain Imaging for Global HealTh (BRIGHT) Project is a collaborative project led by a team of researchers from University College London, Birkbeck University of London, the Medical Research Council Units in the Gambia and Cambridge, as well as Cambridge University Hospitals. The project is a longitudinal study from birth to 24-months of age, following over 200 Gambian infants and 60 infants living in the UK. We are currently starting a new phase of the project, BRIGHT Kids, which involves seeing the BRIGHT families in The Gambia for one additional study visit, where the children are ages 3-5 years.

The aim of the project is to establish brain function-for-age curves of infants in both these settings, in order to gain an insight into the effects that malnutrition, social or environmental difficulties and increased risk of disease, as well as other issues related to living in a low-resource context, may have on infant development. 1 in every 4 children worldwide are undernourished before they reach the age of 5¹, and 1 in every 2 children is thought to live in poverty². However, although there is a large amount of research that highlights the detrimental impact that these conditions have on infant development, not much is known about the neural basis of these consequences.

The BRIGHT Project intends to shed some light into this research area by not only tracking development through behavioural assessments, anthropometrical measures and questionnaires, but also through the implementation of neuroimaging techniques such as Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) and Electroencephalography (EEG). In this way The BRIGHT Project is providing the first ever brain imaging of infants in Africa!

This timeline shows the progress of the project so far:

The BRIGHT Project is composed of three key phases: Phase 1 – “Grand Challenges Explorations: Novel Biomarkers of nutrition Related Cognitive Development”, Phase 2 – “BRIGHT”, and Phase 3 – “BRIGHT Kids”

BRIGHT project Director Clare Elwell’s spotlight talk on Brain Imaging in Global Health at the Grand Challenges – Gate’s Foundation Annual Meeting (26th October 2016):

  1. UNICEF, 2013. Improving Child Nutrition: the Achievable Imperative for Global Progress. UNICEF, New York, NY.
  2. Currie, J., & Almond, D. (2011). Human capital development before age five. Handbook of Labor Economics, 4, 1315–1486.