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Dynamic sensorimotor patterns during parent-child interaction: A cross-syndrome study

   Cardiff School of Psychology

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  Dr Hana D'Souza, Prof M Gattis  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

We are seeking a PhD candidate with a strong interest in developmental science, visual/attentional/language/motor development, machine learning, machine vision, egocentric vision, and/or atypical development to jointly shape a research project focused on understanding the embodied nature of human development. 

Human development is a dynamic process that involves complex and rapidly changing interactions between individuals and their environments. Notably, however, most of our current knowledge about early development has come from highly constrained contexts such as screen-based tasks and standardized assessments, and may not accurately capture development in the richer, more variable environments that infants and young children encounter daily. To close this gap, developmental scientists have recently created innovative and transformative approaches to studying infant and toddler development in richer environments, with parent-child interaction at the core, by building on advances in head-mounted eye-tracking/cameras. The aim of this PhD project is to apply this revolutionary approach to understanding development in young children with atypical constraints, in particular genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome and Williams syndrome.  

The PhD candidate will capitalise on a unique existing dataset from young children with these genetic syndromes as well as typically developing toddlers. This dataset includes:

  • Head-mounted eye-tracking during naturalistic parent-child interaction (both parent and child)
  • Attentional screen-based eye-tracking tasks
  • Language Environment Analysis (LENA) recordings
  • Standardized developmental tests
  • Parent interviews
  • Questionnaires

Jointly with the supervisors, the PhD candidate will have an opportunity to identify and shape research questions around understanding sensorimotor patterns during parent-child interaction.

 Based on the strengths and interests of the PhD candidate, the dataset can be extended by a longitudinal follow up of the same children, inclusion of other atypically developing groups, younger age groups, and/or the same age groups studied in a different context and/or with different methods. Equally, a focus on harnessing machine learning, machine vision, and egocentric vision to provide a more in depth understanding is welcome.

 Depending on the exact direction the project will take, further supervisory input may be sought from the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, the School of Computer Science & Informatics, and/or the School of Engineering.

The application for this post is required to include a research proposal based on this dataset. For more details about the dataset, please contact Dr Hana D’Souza ([Email Address Removed] / [Email Address Removed]; subject line: “Cardiff PhD Studentship: Dynamic sensorimotor patterns”), briefly explaining why you are interested in this project and appending your CV. 

Funding Notes

The studentship will commence in October 2022 and will cover your tuition fees (at UK level) as well as a maintenance grant. In 2021-22 the maintenance grant for full-time students was £15,609 per annum.
Full awards are open to UK Nationals, and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. Although international students are strongly encouraged to apply, extra fees beyond home fees must be paid through additional funding or self-funding.


Yu, C., & Smith, L. B. (2012). Embodied attention and word learning by toddlers. Cognition, 125(2), 244-262.
+ other papers from these authors
D’Souza, D., D’Souza, H., & Karmiloff-Smith, A. (2017). Precursors to language development in typically and atypically developing infants and toddlers: The importance of embracing complexity. Journal of Child Language, 44(3), 591-627.
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