Lancaster University

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01/07/2003 13:18:56

A new centre for Research in Human Development, the only one of its kind in the country, is to be launched at Lancaster University. Researchers from the Psychology Department will have new and state-of-the art facilities in the new Whewell Building.

The new building will have purpose-built labs where research into infant visual and auditory perception will take place under sound-proofed conditions. The development of spatial abilities and those relating to motor control - for example reaching and grasping - will be studied using specialist equipment that includes a head-free eye tracking system and another for registering limb movements in three dimensions.

A laboratory for observing social interactions and testing young children's cognitive development will be used primarily for the study of key abilities in the pre-school and early school years. These include the development of planning in everyday tasks and tests for a ?theory of mind?, which examine how children come to be able to predict and explain other people's actions. These abilities are major achievements in the pre-school years and are notably delayed in children experiencing problems in development, particularly those with Autism and Asperger's syndrome. Parents will be encouraged to be present during research involving their child and all studies will consist of activities that both infants and children enjoy doing.

Head of the Psychology Department Professor Brian Hopkins, explained: "Due to the relatively settled population in the Lancaster area, we are able to track infants from soon after birth to pre-school age and beyond. This allows us to do longitudinal studies, which gives us a deeper understanding of human development".

The Whewell Building is due to open in January 2003. Also, associated with the centre's activities is a new taught MSc course in Developmental Psychology, one of only seven such courses in the UK. Starting in October 2003.