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30.07.18

Exploring the psychology of newborns

The psychological importance of the first few days of life will be explored at an international gathering of researchers at the University of Dundee next week.

Leading experts from across the fields of foetal, neonatal and infant psychology, autism and communication disorders will gather in Dundee for the Second International Workshop on the Psychology of the Neonate.

Together they will investigate how the first 28 days of life, the neonatal period, is crucial for infant development and why it has been historically underexplored.

Presenters will also discuss the shifting emphasis of research to the first seven days of life, known as the perinatal period, and what role this could have on issues such as post-natal depression as well as the impact that formula milk can have on a newborn’s IQ and cognitive skills later in life.

“We simply cannot continue to underestimate how significant this period is, not only for the babies but also for the psychology and welfare of the parents or caregivers as well,” says Dr Emese Nagy, Reader in Psychology at the University of Dundee and organiser of the conference.

“We are in a unique position here in Dundee to add to this conversation. Our lab alone has more than 20 years of experience working with more than 2,000 newborns. How babies mimic and imitate their parents might be just as significant as breastfeeding in order to survive the first few days of infancy.”

International expert Professor Olga Maratos, from the University of Athens, will discuss the model for measuring mental activity in early life, while Professor Kim Bard, from the University of Portsmouth, will explore the experiences and commonalities between baby Chimpanzees and newborn humans.

Professor Jacqueline Nadel, from Pierre & Marie Curie in Paris, will discuss the importance of imitation in development while Dr Nagy will make the case for a definitive concept of the neonatal period and its relevance for medicine, law, policy-making, midwifery, nursing and social work. 

Dr Peter Willatts, also from the University of Dundee, will discuss the effects of natural and infant nutrition on development and Dr Kenneth Aitken, from the University of Glasgow, will explore the neuroscience behind developmental psychopathology in new-borns. 

The conference is free to all to attend and will take place in the Scrymgeour Building at the University of Dundee from 10am to 3.00pm on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 August, 2018.