Project Details

Early Career

Status: Funded - Open

Neural effects of home reading environment, screen time, and video format in preschool children processing stories

John Hutton, MD, FAAP


BACKGROUND: Contrary to recommendations and despite association with language and behavioral problems, screen-based media use is increasing dramatically in young children, fueling controversy about how such media are processed during the span of maximal brain development from birth to age 5.

GAP: Our study will compare neural mechanisms supporting story processing delivered in traditional versus animated format in preschool children, particularly visual imagery, and explore the influence of screen-based media use on brain structure and connectivity.

HYPOTHESES: 1: Animated format will be associated with activation in primary visual brain areas, while traditional format will be associated with activation in visual association areas supporting internally-generated imagery. 2: More stimulating home reading environment will be positively correlated with structural and functional measures in language- and imagery-supporting brain networks, and excessive screen time will be negatively correlated.

METHODS: Forty healthy children between 36 and 60 months old will be recruited from high-volume primary care clinics based at an academic children’s medical center. Structural and functional MRI, cognitive-behavioral testing and parental surveys of home reading and screen time environment will be conducted during a single study visit. Our fMRI paradigm will involve the presentation of age-appropriate stories in 3 formats - audio, audio + pictures, and animation – to discern differences in neural processing. Testing and survey results will be applied as predictors of neural structure and function.

RESULTS: Pending.

IMPACT: Our findings will expand a novel, eco-bio-developmental emergent literacy model to account for screen-based format and electronic media use, informing pediatric recommendations, early interventions and longitudinal study design.

Supervising Institution:
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Scott Holland

Project Location:

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