What assessments are part of the BRIGHT project?

The BRIGHT project involves a number of assessments performing from birth -24months as summarised in the following table:

Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy

Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a non-invasive optical neuroimaging technique that assesses localised brain activation. It measures absorption of near infrared light within different areas of the cortex in response to our stimuli. The more light is absorbed, the more oxygen is being used within an area, which indicates neural activity. The relative transparency of the biological tissue allows the near infrared light to capture these distinct absorption characteristics of oxy- and deoxy-haemoglobin concentration changes. Low light levels are used and continuous measurements can be performed with no risk of damage to the tissue. The technology is also portable, inexpensive and easy to use, hence ideal for use in both the UK and the Gambia.

As so little is known about the specific effects of different risk factors on neurocognitive development, several cognitive domains will be assessed using fNIRS in this project. These include social cognition, novelty processing, functional connectivity and memory. fNIRS assessments in the BRIGHT Project take place when infants are 1, 5, 8, 12, 18 and 24 months.

Event-related Potentials / Electroencephalograph

Event-related Potentials (ERPs) are measured using a portable, wireless Enobio 8-channel electroencephalography (EEG) system. The EEG signals are measured by gel electrodes that are placed in an easy cap. The system then transfers these wirelessly to the computer. In the BRIGHT project, the cap is also fitted with wireless headphones so that the infant can easily be presented with sounds.

ERP/EEG assessments take place when participants are at 1, 5 and 18-months old. 1-month-old infants are assessed during sleep, whereas 5 and 18 month olds are presented with the study during silent interaction.

Anthropometry measures

At all of the time points of the project, infant weight, length, head circumference, mid-upper arm circumference, knee-heel length and skinfold thickness (triceps, biceps, suprailiac and subscapular) are measured using standard protocols.

Behavioural assessments:

Neonatal Behavioural Assessment Scale (NBAS)

Within the first 7-14 weeks of the infant’s birth, the NBAS is performed. The NBAS is able to provide a good indication of newborn abilities and social cognitive functioning. The assessment consists of a structured session in which we behaviourally assess habituation, state-organisation, self-regulation and social interaction.


Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL)

The MSEL is a behavioural assessment that is used to examine cognitive development. It involves a series of games and tasks, the infant, parent and experimenter interact. The MSEL looks at aspects of gross motor development (such as sitting, standing, crawling and walking), fine motor development (how infants grasp onto objects, draw, play with crayons and books), as well as aspects of their early language development. Activities vary according to age. This assessment is carried out when participants are 5, 8, 12, 18 and 24 months of age.


Language Environment Analysis system (LENA)

The Language Environment Analysis system (LENA) is an innovative device able to provide automated counts of the linguistic environment of toddlers. By linguistic environment, we refer to the amount of adult speech heard and vocalizations produced by the toddler in daily interactions with family members or other adults during a typical day. The system yields three main linguistic outcomes: a) Adult word counts (AWC), b) Key child vocalization counts (CVC), and c) Conversational turn counts (CTC). Within the BRIGHT  project, the LENA device is used to record the home acoustic environment of toddlers during two consecutive days (7h per day) at 3 points over the period of 12 – 24 months.


Eye-tracking task

The tasks that are performed with eye tracking involve the examination of social vs. non-social preferences, saccadic latencies, visual search strategies, cognitive control and habituation tasks. As well as this, from 5-months onwards, eye tracking is carried out concurrent to the fNIRS assessments, allowing for more nuanced analysis of the fNIRS.

The eye-tracking tasks are carried out when participants are 5, 8, 12, 18 and 24 months of age. The technology used for this is the Tobii TX300 Eye-tracker.


Parent-Child Interaction (PCI)

5-minute videos are recorded of mothers interacting with their infants, as they would naturally in their home environment. These interactions are recorded at 1, 5, 8, 12 and 24 months.


A range of questionnaire measures form part of the BRIGHT Project, collecting data on:

  • Population specific data of socio-economic status
  • Family and home environment
  • Sleep-wake pattern
  • Infant and mother diet
  • Obstetric history
  • Maternal and infant health