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Being Part of Research in the Aston Brain Centre

Aston Brain Centre FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is invited to be part of research in the Aston Brain Centre (ABC)?

We’re particularly keen to involve children and young people between the ages of 7 and 18 in our research.  Sometimes we are also looking for adults to be in our studies. If you are interested, or want to know more, please just get in touch!  You can do this by contacting our receptionist, Jackie Francis, by email or by telephone on 0121  204 3882.

What is the purpose of research in the ABC?

Our work in the ABC is about how the brain works, and particularly about how it changes during childhood and the teenage years.  To do this kind of work, we need to collect data from lots of children and young people of different ages.  Knowing how the ‘typical’ brain functions enables us to work out what is different in the small numbers of children who have problems such as dyslexia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or language problems.  In the long-run, we will be able to help clinicians develop new tests for better diagnosis of disorders, and to make appropriate treatments.

My child and I are interested in science.  Can we learn anything about science from being in your research?

Yes, we hope so!  We can help you understand the kind of scientific research we are doing, we can show you our labs and the gadgets that we use to collect data, and we can chat to you about many aspects of psychology, neuroscience, or human biology, while you’re here.  For older children interested in careers in science, we can also talk about the kinds of jobs that are available in our field, and how to get into psychology or neuroscience.  We’re all science educators as well as researchers, so it is our mission to get people interested in science!

Can children come in groups?

Yes, children and teenagers are very welcome to come with brothers and sisters, or with friends.  We have enough activities to keep everyone occupied.

What kinds of activities does the research involve?

For some of our research studies, we need children and teenagers to participate in paper-and-pencil tasks which measure all kinds of skills and abilities – for example things like reading and spelling, word games, tests of handedness, or visual puzzles.

Sometimes we are also conducting studies which use computer-based measures (like simple games) which test aspects of hearing, vision, movement, or language.

Sometimes we need to collect brain-data using our MEG machine, so we can actually measure how the brain activity changes while a child listens to sounds, or looks at pictures. (‘MEG’ stands for ‘magneto-encephalography’). This is completely safe, a bit like simply taking a video-recording of your natural brain activity, and even quite comfortable! Before the brain recordings, we attach 5 little sticky sensors to the child’s forehead, and make a measurement of the shape of their head.  Then, for the recording itself, they simply sit in our MEG machine while it silently records the activity from their head. The picture below shows a child taking part in an MEG recording.  We are the only laboratory in the UK which specialises in this kind of recording with children.

Aston Brain Centre (MEG)

Do children need to come with an adult?

If a child or young person under the age of 14 is coming to the ABC to be in a research study, we’d like them to come with an adult at the beginning, and we’d also like an adult to collect them at the end of the study.

During the research, the adult can stay and learn about what is happening (it’s possible to watch some of the tasks and see the labs), or they can leave the child with us and come back later – the Aston Brain Centre is a registered children’s hospital so it is a safe place for children, and all the researchers have been fully CRB-checked.

If a person under the age of 16 is coming to be in a study, we need to ensure that a parent or guardian has consented to the research. If that adult comes with them, we can discuss it there and then (we will also send information in advance).  Alternatively, we can speak to the parent or guardian beforehand (in person, by phone or email) to arrange consent.

What can I learn about my child from them being in the research?

We’ll be able to tell you the results of everything we have measured during the research study.  Sometimes, this will be interesting or useful to you, but sometimes not!  This is because a lot of the data that we need to collect is only informative when examined at the end of the study – but all the information will be extremely valuable to us.

We won’t be doing any diagnostic tests for conditions such as dyslexia or ADHD, or any other disorder.  But if we spot anything, by chance, which suggests that you should seek professional advice, we will tell you immediately.

When our studies are complete, we will send you a letter describing what the results of the study showed, if you want us to.

Can I or my child withdraw from the research at any time?

Yes, you can withdraw at any time – just say that you don’t want to continue.  We are always careful to make sure that a child is comfortable and relaxed at all stages during the studies and will stop the study immediately if there is any concern, even if the child does not complain out loud.

Will my child’s data be kept confidential and anonymous?

Yes, absolutely and completely.  Your privacy is paramount. There is no way that anyone outside the research team will be able to find out that your child was in the study, or know how they did on our measures.

Will you do anything to my child that I don’t know about or did not consent to?

Absolutely not.  We will give you a full written description of the study, and will also explain it carefully to your child. Both of you will be asked to give your consent (if your child is 16 or under), and we will not do anything you have not consented to.

Will the ABC cover my costs?

If you live in the greater Birmingham area, we can pay for a taxi to get you to the ABC and back, or train fare if you live further away.  If you come by car, you can park at the ABC and we can pay for your petrol.  We can offer you refreshments while you’re with us and we will make sure you don’t go hungry if you’re here all day.

Girl with balloon at Aston Brain Centre (ABC)

How to Get in Touch

If you’re interested in getting involved, you can email or telephone our receptionist, Jackie Francis. She will take your contact details and one of the scientific team will get back in touch with you as soon as possible.

Email: j.francis@aston.ac.uk

Telephone: 0121  204 3882  

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