MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit

Evaluating Attention

Help us find out more about attention in childhood

The Medical Research Council (MRC) and Cambridge University are working together to investigate attention in children and young people aged 6-16.

Children’s ability to pay attention (our ability to select information from a visual scene, focus on a task and switch between tasks effectively) plays an important role in the learning experience and can have a big impact on academic achievement.

Our research is assessing attention and how physiology (increases in heart rate, sweating and movement) relate to the attentional behaviour that we see at home and in the classroom.

What will happen if I take part?

If you decide to take part, your child will be invited to a 1.5 hour assessment (with breaks as required) at school, home or at the Cognition and Brain Science Unit.

This assessment will involve having a go at tasks on a computer aimed at measuring different aspects of attention. Whilst children complete these tasks we will measure how his or her body reacts by monitoring heart rate, movement and galvanic skin response (tiny changes in sweat on the skin). These will be measured by pads and electrodes sitting painlessly on the feet and chest. Both are completely safe and have been used in countless studies.

Lead researchers: Laura Forde, MRC-funded PhD student, and Tom Manly, Programme Leader

How do I take part?

If you would like to learn more, or take part in this study, we would love to hear from you. Email Laura Forde ( to find out more. This does not commit you to taking part.

We have further studies into attention and memory and are always keen to hear from parents and children who are interested in research. If you would like more information about how to get involved please click here or email Dr Duncan Astle (



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