Projects


Active Projects

ICAN: Infant Cognition and Nutrition Study

Currently recruiting

Study Purpose: The purpose of this research study is to determine if eating eggs during breastfeeding will improve nutrient content of milk and infant cognition.

What participants will do:  You and your child will come to the lab for three sessions across 3 months.  Moms will be asked to each eggs (provided), keep a food diary, give blood, milk, and saliva samples, and fill out questionnaires about your child's development.  Babies will play age-appropriate games, participate in a memory activity, and give a small blood sample (heel stick) and saliva.

Recruiting: Healthy lactating women at 12-15 weeks postpartum

Compensation: You will receive a $35 Visa gift card at each visit as a token of our appreciation.

See if you qualify today! Call 704-250-5018, email feedingbrains@unc.eduor click HERE to enter your contact information.

 

Completed Projects

Memory Game Pilot Study for 12- and 24-month-olds

Completed

The purpose of this research study was to test some newly-designed toys which will be used in future studies to learn about brain development in children.  We successfully recruited ten 12-month olds and ten 24-month olds who came to the lab for one session that lasted about an hour.  During this time, we played a memory game with the child and asked parents fill out a few questionnaires about her child's language development and temperament.  For the memory game, each child was asked to watch and imitate short action sequences that the researcher demonstrated.  We assessed each child's ability to imitate and recall these sequences immediately and after a 10- or 20-minute delay.

With this pilot study, we wanted to determine the feasibility and durability of the toys when used with young children.  We discovered that the children were interested and engaged with the toys, and found that some of the designs needed to be tweaked in order to withstand the banging or throwing that comes naturally to kids this age.  We are in the process of analyzing the data to determine if the toys were successful at assessing short- and long-term memory in 12- and 24-month-olds.

Thank you to all the children and parents who participated in this pilot study.  We appreciate each and every one of you!

 

Can eating blueberries prevent, slow down or even reverse memory loss?

Part 2: Enrollment completed, data analysis in progress

  • In order to gain more information about the progression from Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) to dementia researchers in the Cheatham lab designed a study to follow up on our B.E.R.R.Y. participants.  These participants will be coming back into the lab for one visit where they will participate in some of the same assessments they completed during Part 1 of the study.  Electrophysiological techniques and the CANTAB have shown promise in the diagnosis and prediction of MCI. We will compare the new data to the data collected one, two, or three years ago. In June, we began bringing our BERRY participants back in to the lab for this exciting follow-up.

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Can eating blueberries prevent, slow down or even reverse memory loss?

Part 1: Completed

  • That is something that we are trying to figure out. Currently one in eight Americans age 65 and older suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and there is no cure for this disease. In 2011, Dr. Cheatham and her post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Sheau Ching Chai, began a study to explore the effects of daily blueberry intake in older adults.  In this study titled “Blueberries: Exciting Research Relevant to You (B.E.R.R.Y.)”, we enrolled 65-to 79-year-olds with mild cognitive decline.

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Is the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio related to executive function in 7- to 12-year olds?

  • We have a cool new task: the Electric Maze. Some of you had the chance to try out the maze in a recent study. I hope everyone had fun. We have now looked at the data. As it turns out, the Electric Maze Task (EMT) works very well as a measure of planning, which is exactly what we were trying to do. So, yay!

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Do genetics affect human milk and babies' memory?

  • Part 1 The results of the infant study are in! For those who don’t know, we have spent the last couple years working with moms and babies who were exclusively breastfeeding. The moms provided milk samples that we analyzed for fatty acid content. We also determined, from saliva, mom’s and baby’s genotype at a specific location on one of the genes responsible for using one fatty acid to make another – basically taking the fatty acids found in plants (e.g., ALA) and using them to make the fatty acids found in animals (e.g., DHA). People with a GG genotype are thought to not be able to complete this process. Thus, the hypothesis was that the few individuals who were GG would need to eat foods with plenty of DHA, whereas others could eat the plant foods and still have sufficient DHA. As a consequence, we thought that the baby of a GG mom may not be get-ting enough DHA and that we could maybe see this reflected in recognition memory abilities. So, the babies participated in an electrophysiology task in which they viewed a picture with which they were familiar mixed in with pictures that they were seeing for the first time.

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Does the ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids matter?

  • First, a refresher: in the 7-9 year old study, we were looking at whether or not children’s diets affected their performance on a series of computer tests of memory, attention, and planning. We asked all the kids about their diet for three days, and then brought them in to play the computer games. I had a great time with that part! We were particularly looking for the types of fats that the kids consumed (like omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids), and whether or not that mattered for how they did on the computer tasks.  We found that kids who had a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids were faster at completing the working memory tasks than kids with a higher ratio.  We also found that kids who had a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids were faster at completing planning tasks than kids with a higher ratio.

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