Research in the Benasich Infancy Studies Lab (ISL) at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience (CMBN), Rutgers University-Newark has centered on the study of the early neural processes necessary for normative cognitive and language development as well as the impact of disordered processing on infant neurocognitive status. Our prospective, longitudinal research has included children, ranging from 3 months through 10 years of age. We study the developing brain with a particular focus on the processing of the critical timing cues that underlie early language acquisition and subsequent cognition.
We employ a multi-tiered approach, utilizing converging methodologies, including dense-array EEG (dEEG) in wake and sleep, auditory evoked response potentials (AERPs), complex auditory brainstem response potentials (cABR), naturally sleeping MRI/fMRI and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), as well as traditional infant behavioral paradigms, such as an operant conditioning head-turn task, auditory and visual habituation and recognition memory tasks, an array of standardized developmental cognitive and language assessments and other research behavioral tasks.
Data analyses have been approached using a variety of techniques, including but not limited to identification of ERP peaks latency and amplitude, source localization of ERP generators, as well as investigation of oscillatory dynamics via temporal spectral evolution (TSE) and inter-trial phase locking (ITPL). To facilitate accurate source localization, age-appropriate developmental brain templates were generated from MRI data gathered from naturally sleeping infants. Source localization of event-related potentials to pitch change mapped onto age-appropriate MRIs at 6 months of age.
We pioneered in collecting MRI/fMRI data in naturally sleeping infants. Thus, the first paper on arterial spin labeling in infants and the first infant resting state paper came from the ISL at CMBN.