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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory

Dr. Kimberly Andrews Espy, Director


Midwest Infant Development Study

Study Background

The initial MIDS study involved administering experimental tasks early in life and determining continuities in function across age. The project was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to investigate whether smoking during pregnancy affects neonatal attention and state-regulating behavior, and whether outcome varies as a function of perinatal risk and dopamine receptor genotypes. We administered specific tests to neonates after birth while they were still hospitalized. Infants were also seen in the laboratory with other specialized tasks measuring early attention and rule-driven behavior administered. A follow-up to this study, conducted once these children were 3-years-old (MIDS-36), was designed to better delineate the effects of prenatal tobacco exposure on externalizing behaviors (e.g., early signs of aggression, hyperactivity, etc.). This follow-up extended the initial MIDS study aims by examining the role of emerging executive control (i.e., children's intentional regulation of their own thought and actions) and emotion regulation (i.e., children's ability to monitor their own emotion in order to comply with social rules and/or to avoid disruption of cognitive activities).

Currently, the MIDS study is in a follow-up phase and is being conducted at UNL and also in Southern Illinois (see below).

MIDS-Preschool (MIDS-P)

The MIDS-P study aims to understand the mechanisms by which some children develop disruptive or inattentive behavior, with a particular focus on linkages between prenatal tobacco exposure and later behavioral regulation. Specific areas of interest in this preschool phase of MIDS include children's ability to process and identify emotions and to focus and control their attention in situations that may induce emotion. These skills are critical for children's social competence and their readiness to transition to formal schooling. Because children's behavior reflects a complex interplay of genetic tendencies and life experiences, extensive genetic and family background data is also being collected. All families who have been involved in the MIDS project since pregnancy will be invited to participate in MIDS-P when their children reach early kindergarten age.

Study Contact: