General Overview

What happens when you join the BABIES Project:

There are several components to the study that help us to learn about infant development and families. This includes an interview with mothers about themselves, their children, and their family (child care can be arranged for your baby during this visit).

Then, we conduct an MRI scan with the infant when he or she is sleeping. We ask mothers and infants to do some activities together in our lab rooms, which includes collecting saliva samples using a small cotton tube from both mom and baby at repeated times during the visit.

If mothers prefer to do some activities in their homes or over the phone, we can arrange for these accommodations in most cases. Further, we allow for participants to schedule these pieces at as few as two visits to Stanford or to break them into smaller, shorter sessions.

During the pregnancy session of the study, we will conduct interviews and questionnaires, collect a hormone from your saliva and by taking a small sample of hair from the back of your head, and have you complete some computer tasks.

During the newborn assessment, we will conduct a brief interview, obtain another hair sample, and gently run a swab on the inside of your baby's cheek to learn more about infant health.

Confidentiality Statement: All information collected from and about you will be maintained in secure locked files and on a secure computer database. Your name will not be used directly in conjunction with any information collected, and all information will be recorded under an arbitrary ID number. Only the protocol director and appropriate research staff will have access to the document linking your name with the ID number. The results of this research may be presented at scientific or medical meetings or published in scientific journals. Any data that may be published in scientific journals will not reveal the identity of the subjects. Patient information may be provided to Federal and regulatory agencies as required. When the study is complete, the saliva samples will be destroyed. It is possible, based on the information you disclose, that the investigators may think you are at risk to harm yourself (e.g., from severe depression) or others or that there is a current risk of child abuse. In that case, the investigators may be obligated to take appropriate action, including admitting you to a hospital if you are at risk to harm yourself and reporting information, including your name, to the appropriate authorities under California law if you are at risk to harm another or disclose information of a risk of current child abuse.

Frequently Asked Questions

Babies age six months or younger can be scheduled and screened, with the goal of scanning participants at age six months.
The time commitment is 3 to 10 hours over 1 to 2 visits.
We schedule sessions around your availability, including daytime, evenings, and weekends. The scan will occur in the evening, near your child's bedtime.
Yes, just let us know ahead of time how many to expect and we can arrange for child care to be provided during your visits.
We pay $25 an hour for your time, and we also provide thank you gifts for you and your baby (e.g., junior scientist t-shirt, board book, toy, a developmental Fact Sheet).
If eligible, you and your child will have the opportunity to visit Stanford University to participate in interviews, do questionnaires, participate in structured parent-child interactions, and participate in an fMRI brain scan.

For the pregnancy study, we will ask you to come into our lab for an interview and some activities while we measure your body's response to various activities. When your child is born, we will schedule a time to visit you at home or invite you to the lab to complete some questionnaires and get a sample of you and your baby's saliva.

No. Unlike PET and X-ray scans, MRI does not involve any radiation and has no known health risks when performed correctly. Instead, MRI uses a large magnet to take pictures of your child's brain while he or she is asleep.
No. We do not use any medication. We wait until your baby falls asleep in order to get clear images though the scan.
Sometimes it takes babies a little while to fall asleep, but active scanning lasts less than an hour.
We screen each participant by phone to ensure eligibility before scheduling your first session. You can call (650-736-2318) email (, or fill out this online form to let us know you are interested in being contacted for the phone screen.
Great! Please do tell your friends who may be interested. We are always looking for volunteers and can keep your names on file in case the ages we are currently studying changes.