UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health


Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health


CNN Research

  • Invasive monitoring
  • Neuropsychological testing
  • Eye tracking
  • Event-related-potentials
  • kinematics
  • Structural MRI
  • Functional MRI
  • Tractography

Our aim is to understand memory impairment resulting from brain injuries occurring during infancy. We have several ongoing projects investigating the impact of hypoxic (lack of oxygen) / ischaemic (impaired blood flow to the brain) events early in life on the development of memory.  Hypoxic-ischaemic events can result in hippocampal damage which is, in turn, correlated with memory impairment.  The degree of impairment depends on the degree of damage sustained by the hippocampus.  In cases where the damage is both bilateral and extensive, individuals develop a syndrome known as Developmental Amnesia (DA). Patients with DA are markedly impaired in episodic memory.

Using neuropsychological and MRI techniques, we are investigating the neurological causes and the long-term outcome of hippocampal damage in individuals with both mild-moderate memory impairment as well as those diagnosed with the syndrome DA.  It is hoped that this will aid the development of rehabilitation methods.

In addition, working with DA patients enables us to investigate the neural structures involved in different types of memory, e.g., the contribution of the hippocampus to visual and auditory long-term memory.

Current Projects:
Consequences of neonatal exposure to hypoxia/ischaemia on the hippocampus and the basal ganglia in infants with cardiorespiratory disease:  A longitudinal study of memory and sensorimotor outcome from birth to 3 years.
Long term memory and language outcome in relation to the memory and language networks after childhood cardiac arrest.  
Non-verbal auditory long-term recognition memory in developmental amnesia
Tracking the hippocampal and diencephalic circuit of cognitive memory in developmental amnesia with diffusion tensor imaging
White matter damage revealed by DTI in patients with acute cardio-respiratory disease and bilateral hippocampal pathology
Hippocampal pre-frontal interactions assessed on Self-Ordered-Pointing-Task with increasing memory load in patients with selective hippocampal pathology of early onset
Episodic memory and motor skill learning associated with selective brain damage in children with low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)

Early detection of atypical cognitive and social skills

Cognitive and social difficulties are common long-term outcomes in a variety of paediatric medical conditions, even in the absence of major neurological problems or global developmental delay.  These problems can require expensive long-term educational support and intervention throughout the school years and have a serious long-term impact on the child and their family.  Even so, they are typically not identified until some years after discharge from hospital, and often come to light when children experience difficulties at school-age.

Potentially, early identification of the infants who are particularly likely to develop difficulties would allow intervention before problems become entrenched and lead to a history of school and social failure.  However, the typical instruments used to examine outcomes in infants and pre-schoolers often focus on global developmental quotients and may not be optimal for identifying the early stages of difficulties in specific cognitive or social skills.  Projects in this area focus on developing behaviour and brain-based (e.g., EEG) measures of specific cognitive and social skills in infants and preschoolers for better identification of those at risk, and include study of infants born preterm, with infant-onset epilepsy, congenital visual impairment and sickle cell disease.

To volunteer or get involved, visit the London Babylab
Email ich.babylab@ucl.ac.uk for further information

Speech and language

We study the brain basis of childhood-onset speech and language disorders.

Nearly 5% of children have a communication disorder of unknown origin. Speech and language problems can also occur in certain neurological conditions resulting in dysphasia, dyspraxia of speech, or dysarthria. Using neuropsychological evaluations and structural and functional imaging, we aim to understand brain plasticity and functional reorganisation after early injury, and identify the neural networks serving speech and language disrupted in acquired and developmental conditions, such as:

genetic disorders; epilepsy; tumours; traumatic brain injury; stroke; preterm birth; developmental coordination disorder;
Current Projects:
Reading networks in the developing brain
Developmental Coordination Disorder: a Brain Imaging study
Elucidating the neural pathways and genetic basis of speech
Effects of a mutation in FOXP2 on motor and language tracts in the human brain
FOXP2 mutation and auditory processing in the KE family
Working memory deficits in association with a mutation of the FOXP2 gene
Plasticity of language networks after epilepsy surgery: implications for outcome
Functional imaging to guide neurosurgical treatment:  a systematic pre- to post-operative evaluation in children

Motor organisation

Young people with white matter damage to the sensorimotor pathways display atypical motor development that results in reduced opportunity for exploration and environmental interaction, which in turn, impacts their cognitive and social development. We seek to combine motion capture (kinematics) and dynamical systems analysis to develop a quantitative assessment of these anomalous trajectories and provide the basis for (a) an early and accurate diagnosis, (b) the design of novel interventions, when the brain is at its most adaptable, and (c) a method to detect and validate any changes resulting from interventions.

We seek to formally describe motor synergies on the basis of both kinematic and physiological information. For the older children, our aim is to design and trial novel interventions, such as virtual reality games, that can increase the repertoire of movements in the upper limbs, thus potentially improving their motor outcomes.

Current Projects:

Improving the outcome of hemispherectomy in children with intractable epilepsy Tissue preconditioning to prevent ischaemic damage: movement coordination in infants

Clinical Applications

Most scientists in our section work directly at the clinical interface, first aiming to understand the brain basis of neurocognitive disorders in children and then translating modern neuroscience into clinical practice.

Our closest clinical partner is Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) where we have active research projects jointly with Clinical Neuropsychology, Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Neurology, and Endocrinology. Our research has direct impact on the GOSH Epilepsy Surgery Programme and major projects involve young patients from Cardiology and Intensive Care as well as Neonatology at University College Hospitals.

London Babylab

The London Babylab is for parents and guardians of children under the age of 6 who enjoy science and want to know more about how their babies develop.

We are part of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience within the UCL Institute of Child Health which works in partnership with Great Ormond Street Hospital, the largest centre in Europe devoted to children's health and wellbeing.

We are a group of specialists in early child development working in the heart of London to try and understand how babies' brains really work. If you would like to have a unique experience with your little one and make your own contribution to the science of child development, come and visit us! 

Kinematics lab

Infants with white matter damage display atypical motor development that results in reduced opportunity for exploration and environmental interaction, which in turn, delays their cognitive and motor development. We seek to combine motion capture and dynamical systems analysis to develop a quantitative assessment of these anomalous trajectories and provide the basis for (a) an earlier and more accurate diagnosis, (b) the design of a novel intervention, when the brain is at its most adaptable, and (c) a method to detect and validate any changes resulting from intervention.

Our focus is on early movements (2 to 4 months), when activity is exploratory in nature. We seek to formally describe motor synergies on the basis of both kinematic and physiological information. Our aim is to design and trial novel interventions that can be applied during waking hours and enable them to practise a greater repertoire of movements, thus potentially improving their motor outcomes. This intervention will be started when the developing nervous system is thought to be most adaptable and normal development of cortical and spinal reflex pathways can be facilitated.
Healthy babies needed!

We are looking for healthy babies to help us build a picture of typical development. If you have a baby aged 1-6 months, please do consider helping us!
Luc Berthouze

Luc received his Ph.D. in Engineering Sciences from the University of Evry (France) in 1996. After working for 5 years at the Electrotechnical Laboratory (ETL) of Japan, he joined the Neuroscience Research Institute of AIST, Japan, first as a research scientist and from 2005 as a senior research scientist.

He is currently a senior lecturer in the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics at the University of Sussex, and a honorary senior lecturer at the UCL Institute of Child Health.

His research is concerned with the computational modelling of adaptive and developmental mechanisms, particularly in motor development. Specifically, he is interested in the dynamics of exploratory movements in young infants and how it is affected by neurological conditions such as CP (with Margaret Mayston) as well as in the origin and functional relevance of developmental changes in neuronal coherence (with Simon Farmer).

Volunteering your baby for a movement recording session

We are looking for healthy babies between the ages of 1-6 months. Your baby will take part in one 30 minute session in which s/he will be asked to lie on his/her back and play while his/her movements are recorded by cameras which track several reflective markers which are placed on the body. Muscle activity will also be measured using stickers attached to the skin overlying some of the muscles. The equipment is non invasive, does not stimulate the baby, and will not cause pain or discomfort. The recording itself is very short, usually made over multiple short sessions of 1 minute and you can hold your baby in between these short sessions if you would like to.
What do you gain?

As the lucky parent of a healthy baby, you do not really gain anything, except the knowledge that you have helped contribute to scientific research and to the improvement of treatments for children with brain lesions and movement difficulties. Although we are not allowed to pay you for your time, your travel expenses will be covered.
How to volunteer

Please complete the following form or contact Serife Dervish on 020 7905 2746  and we will get back to you shortly!