Inside The Babylab, Where Scientists Examine Babies' Brains

14/08/2014 16:58 | Updated 20 May 2015

Birkbeck babylab

These amazing pictures from the University of London's 'Babylab' show babies strapped into advanced motion capture sensors as researchers assess their movements for an experiment.

The Babylab Centre is dedicated to the science surrounding cognitive development in children. The current research examines the relationship between muscle movement and judgement of time, testing whether having a baby reach for an object might improve their sense of the passage of time.

Birkbeck Babylab

The subjects in the Babylab's studies range from one month to three years old and participate in a number of experiments conducted by neuro scientists hoping to unlock the secrets of the human brain.

"The way babies' brains change is an amazing and mysterious process," psychologist Mark Johnson, the centre's director, told Wired last year.

"The brain increases in size by three to four-fold between birth and teenage years, but we don't understand how that relates to its function."

Birkbeck Babylab

Previous experiments at the Babylab have covered everything from the way babies recognise facial expressions and what makes them laugh to early signs of autism.

Strapping such young children into such intimidating looking equipment might raise some eyebrows. But the experiments are presented to the babies as games, toys or short video clips, and usually last no longer than 15 minutes.

Birkbeck Babylab

Professor Johnson is quick to point out that the wellbeing of the children comes first for researchers, not just for caring reasons but for scientific ones too - for the results of the study to be usable, the babies involved can't be upset or disturbed.

"All our studies are geared towards making sure our babies are contented," he explains. "If we want data, we need happy babies."

Suggest a correction