Research - What do we do?

Children develop immensely in the first years of their lives. In this period, they learn a lot about their surroundings, and rapidly develop their social skills. The baby research team at Utrecht University is running different research projects into this early development of babies and young children. The different projects are described in more detail below. 

While some may think that the duration of certain studies may be too long, we always allow extra time to ensure that the parents and the child are comfortable. Some studies may require less time than listed here. There is also always time for a break to, for example, eat something. In this manner, we can complete the tasks by working within the daily routine of your baby.


Current Research

  • Research project into social development of 3, 5, and 10 month old babies

Babies’ social skills develop a lot in the first year. From birth, babies like to look at faces, and after a few months, they continue to search for contact with other people and attend to more social signals. We are wondering how this development of social skills goes in hand with that of the brain. With this being our area of research now, we use the fNIRS method, which allows us to measure brain activity. We are interested in the manner in which babies see or perceive other people’s faces, and how this develops as they grow older. Therefore, we are researching how babies look at other faces, and how this information is processed in the brain across different age groups. 

This research is being conducted at the UMC Utrecht.

Study duration will take around 2 hours per visit.

Total visits: Two. First when your baby is 3 months old, and the second when your baby is 5 months old. Or, the first when your baby is 5 months old, and subsequently when your baby is 10 months old.

Research method: fNRIS.


  • Research project into language development in two year olds 

During the first year of life, a child learns, often without difficulty, to speak their mother language. We are interested in this early language development, specifically how babies are able to learn words.  At the moment we are, for example, researching if a toddler can learn new words better if they are spoken by their mother, instead of by a stranger.

This research is being conducted at the KinderKennisCentrum in Utrecht.

This study will take around 1 hour.

Total visits: One.

Research Method: Eye-tracking.


  • Research project into the early characteristics of autism in babies younger than 10 months old

A section of our research is aimed at better understanding which characteristics of autism are already present during the infancy. This is our Zebra- Project. Zebra stands for (in Dutch) Zusjes en Broertjes van kinderen met autism or “brothers and sisters of children with autism”. For more information, see We are searching for families with a child younger than 10 months, that has an older brother or sister (with or without autism).

This study is conducted at your home.

Duration of the research: roughly 6 to 7 hours per visit, divided into sections from 5 to 45 minutes.

Total visits: 4, when your child is 10, 14, 24, and 26 months old.

Research methods: Behavioural observation, Eye-Tracking and EEG


  • Research project into the development from baby to toddler 

Every child develops in its own way. Already in babies there are clear differences between individuals. The question is what these differences at an early age can tell us about the development into toddlerhood. And what role plays the parent in this development? To investigate this we looked at the brain activation in infants. Now these infants reached toddlerhood and we ask them to participate again. In this way we can unravel their individual development.

Participation in this research is only possible by invitation.

This research is being conducted at home.

This study will take around 1,5 hour.

Total visits: One home visit and one interview by phone.

Research Method: Behavioral observation, questionnaires and computer tasks.



Register Your Interest

Are you enthusiastic about one of our research projects? Then please feel free to indicate this via our Registration Form. Please note, this does not commit you to the project.