In 2014 a research clinic for children with problems in the areas of attention, learning and/ or memory was established at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (MRC CBU). The clinic is located in the Centre for Attention, Learning and Memory (CALM), a family-friendly developmental research facility based at the MRC CBU. The MRC CBU is part of The University of Cambridge, funded through a strategic partnership between the Medical Research Council and the University.
The mission of the CALM clinic is to identify the cognitive, behavioural, neural and genetic dimensions that underpin a broad range of cognitive difficulties faced in childhood. These data will enable us and our partners to identify phenotypes with the aim of understanding basic underpinning mechanisms, develop appropriate diagnostic techniques, and create new effective interventions. An intermediate benefit of the clinic is the establishment of a research panel that is being used to recruit children with targeted cognitive and behavioural profiles for other research studies.
To achieve this, we recruited a wide range of children with problems in the areas of attention, learning, and/ or memory via children’s community services such as education, speech and language therapy, child and adolescent mental health, and paediatrics. Children attending the clinic included those struggling with academic learning, as well as individuals with diagnoses such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD and Specific Language Impairment. These problems are often comorbid and accompany mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. The only recruitment exclusions were for children with hearing or vision problems of sufficient severity to make our standard instruments unsuitable, and for children who are not native English speakers.
From May 2018 we will be recruiting children attending the same schools as the children who have already attended assessments at the CALM clinic. The purpose of this new recruitment phase is to allow us to look in detail at the extent to which the cognitive abilities, learning, behaviour and brain functioning of children referred to CALM differ from a representative sample of children of the same age.