Assessing the Feasibility of Using Eye Tracking to Study Infants’ Cognitive Functioning in Rural Malawi

 Assessing the Feasibility of Using Eye Tracking to Study Infants’ Cognitive Functioning in Rural Malawi A method to study infant cognition, based on recording eye movements and visual fixation after various visual or other stimuli, has been extensively used with easily accessible infant populations in high-resource settings, such as Europe and North America, but no such data has been collected with infants in low-income countries. This, in turn, has limited the understanding of how environmental risk factors, such as poverty and malnutrition, affect infant cognitive development in low-income countries.

To assess the feasibility and acceptability of using the cognitive development measurement technique in a developing country setting, FANTA partner University of Tampere carried out a field test with 37 9-month-old infants in rural Malawi and compared the acceptability of the eye tracking method and the quality of the eye tracking data collected with that of 39 Finnish 9-month old infants. The results demonstrated that the method is feasible and acceptable to use in low-income settings such as rural Malawi. To further advance the development and validation of the tool, results will soon be available from a follow-up longitudinal, observational study in Malawi to examine how maternal and child nutrition and the duration of pregnancy at birth are associated with children’s cognitive development at 7 and 9 months of age.

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