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. These include several interviews and questionnaires for mothers about themselves, their children, and their family, as well as two MRI scans with each infant while he or she is sleeping and several structured mother-infant interaction activities at our lab.

During the pregnancy session of the study, we will conduct interviews and questionnaires, collect a hormone 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 an MRI scan with your child while you complete additional questionnaires. We will also obtain another hair sample, and gently run a swab on the inside of your baby's cheek to collect DNA.

During the first of two 6-month sessions, we will ask you and your infant to complete several activities together, and will conduct further interviews with you. During that session, we will also collect saliva samples from your baby several times using a small cotton tube, and collect hair samples from both you and your baby.

Then, we will ask you and your baby come back several weeks later for the second 6-month session, which will consist of another MRI scan for your baby while you completes some activities on a computer and further questionnaires.

We will also ask that your family complete an at-home activity when your baby is 6 months old. This activity involves placing a recording device on your baby to wear on two separate days to measure your baby's auditory environment.

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

We recruit mothers when they are pregnant, and schedule the pregnancy session for 16-32 weeks gestation. We aim to schedule the newborn session for 4-6 weeks past the baby's due date, and the two 6-month sessions during the baby's 6th month of life.
The time commitment is 10 to 15 hours over 3 visits, with each visit lasting 2-4 hours.
We schedule sessions around your availability, including daytime, evenings, and weekends. The MRI scans 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.
Yes - we will compensate you $25 an hour for your time, as well as for transportation to Stanford University. We will also provide you with pictures of your baby's brain after the MRI scan sessions, as well as thank you gifts for you and your baby (e.g., junior scientist onesie, toy, developmental Facts Sheet).
If eligible, you and your child will have the opportunity to visit Stanford University to participate in interviews and structured parent-child interactions. You will also do questionnaires and cognitive activities, and your child will participate in two MRI brain scans.

For the pregnancy session, we will ask you to come into our lab for an interview and some activities. When your child is born, we will invite you to the lab to complete some questionnaires and conduct an MRI scan with your child. When your child is 6 months old, we will invite you both back to complete two additional sessions, and ask that you complete an at-home activity.

No. Unlike PET and X-ray scans, MRI does not involve any radiation and has no known health risks for infants or children of any age. Instead, MRI uses a large magnet to take pictures of your child's brain while he or she is asleep. Your baby's comfort during the scan is our top priority; one of our staff members will be continuously monitoring your baby during the scan, within arm's reach at all times. If your baby does wake up during the scan, we will stop the scan immediately and wait until your baby is sleeping again before resuming.
No. We do not use any medication. We wait until your baby falls asleep naturally before beginning the scan.
Sometimes it takes babies a little while to fall asleep, but active scanning time is approximately 30 minutes. That time is also broken up into several shorter sequences, so if your baby wakes up midway through the scan, we will be able to start again from where we left off.
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 or we begin recruitment again.