Momodou K. Darboe

My research interest lies in the study of the impact of undernutrition, especially micronutrients deficiencies, on childhood growth and development. I had earlier conducted a vitamin A supplementation study assessing the effect of optimal vitamin A dosing on growth and mucosal-related infections in early infancy. More recently, my research focus is on assessing the impact of nutritional, particularly multiple-micronutrient, intervention on early childhood growth and development with special interest in its relationship with psychomotor and cognitive development.

Assessing the direct effect of undernutrition on cognitive development is difficult because of the near absence of the tools needed to do this. The need for identifying such tools has led me to initiate a collaborative venture between our group, MRC Unit the Gambia/MRC international Nutrition Group, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Professor Elwell a Medical Physicist at UCL, UK and Dr Sarah Lloyd-Fox a Psychologist at Birkbeck, University of London, UK. They use Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS), which describes the measurement of functional brain activation, to study brain development in infants. With a phase I funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) grant we conducted a pilot study to assess the feasibility of using fNIRS as an alternative to behavioural assessments of cognitive development with infants at the MRC Keneba site in rural Africa. The results of this study enabled us to secure a phase II funding from BMGF to continue our work in the BRIGHT (Brain Imaging in Global Health) study using fNIRS to study the relationship between cognitive development and malnutrition in infants in rural Africa. Our aim is to provide a feasible non-invasive tool for assessing brain development and ultimately the impact of malnutrition on brain function.

I studied Biomedical Science majoring in clinical biochemistry at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK. I obtain an MSc in Human Nutrition and a PhD in Public Health Nutrition from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, UK. I currently work with the MRC Unit The Gambia in Keneba as a Senior Scientific Officer and the local Principal Investigator of the BRIGHT study overseeing the implementation of the study.