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Portable EEG-based screening of social predispositions in newborns

Objective

Predispositions to preferentially orient towards cues associated with social partners, such as face-like stimuli or biological and animate motion, appear to guide human social behavior from the onset of life and are typically impaired in children with autism-spectrum disorders (ASD). An early detector of social predispositions and their impairment in newborns might provide a valuable biomarker for ASD, an indicator of utmost relevance since infants with ASD greatly benefit from early behavioral intervention. This proposal builds on a study performed within my ERC grant in which, by designing an innovative oscillatory visual presentation of face-like patterns and perceptually equivalent controls, we identified an EEG-based index of face processing, present in each newborn tested and obtainable with less than 2 minutes of newborn’s visual attention. However, recording newborn’s EEG is currently possible only in laboratory settings, as no fully portable EEG system adapted for newborns exists in the market. The goal of this proposal is to design a portable, wireless EEG-based device that allows easy, rapid and automatic testing of face processing in newborns in any context, including their homes. This device is ground-breaking because it will combine the efficacy of our innovative experimental paradigm tailored to newborn’s restricted visual attention with a portable, low-power, wireless EEG device based on dry electrodes and an automatic algorithm that will extract on-line the EEG-based index of face processing. Its realization will enable the development of an early, objective and easy-to-test EEG-based biomarker on newborns at risk, potentially opening the way to large-scale screening protocols. Given the flexibility of the paradigm with respect to the content of the visual stimulation, this method might be used for research purposes to explore the neural bases of other perceptual and cognitive functions in newborns.
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Host institution

UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI TRENTO

Address

Via Calepina 14
38122 Trento

Italy

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 113 070

Beneficiaries (3)

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UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI TRENTO

Italy

EU Contribution

€ 113 070

FONDAZIONE BRUNO KESSLER

Italy

EU Contribution

€ 6 250

ALMA MATER STUDIORUM - UNIVERSITA DI BOLOGNA

Italy

EU Contribution

€ 30 625

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 842243

Status

Ongoing project

  • Start date

    1 November 2019

  • End date

    30 April 2021

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.1.

  • Overall budget:

    € 149 945

  • EU contribution

    € 149 945

Hosted by:

UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI TRENTO

Italy