Research Topic 1
Caregivers whose eyes wander during playtime-due to distractions such as smartphones or other technology, for example-may raise children with shorter attention spans, finds a study by Indiana University psychologists. Thirty-six parent-infant pairs wore head-mounted cameras while playing with three toys. The researchers found that babies whose parents followed their lead during play focused on objects about four times longer than did infants whose caregivers were quickly distracted. In addition, babies whose parents made little effort to focus on what their kids were playing with had even shorter attention spans than the children whose parents focused briefly before looking away (Current Biology, May 9).

Research 2
Proper nutrition during childhood can positively affect a child’s social behavior, according to a study conducted by University of Pennsylvania researchers. The scientists analyzed the health and social behavior of 1, 795 3-year-old children from Mauritius an island nation off the eastern coast of Africa. The researchers found that compared with children who received adequate nutrition, those with signs of malnutrition had more impaired social behavior. Additional results suggest that cognitive abilities mediate the relation between nutrition and social behavior (Maternal & Child Nutrition, online May 1).

Research 3
Parental depression contributes to greater brain activity in areas linked to risk-taking in adolescents, according to research by psychologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and UCLA. Twenty-three adolescents took part in interviews, cognitive testing and brain imaging at the beginning and end of an 18-month period. Adolescents whose parents had greater depressive symptoms increased their risk-taking and externalizing behaviors over the course of the study. They also showed higher levels of activation in the ventral striatum and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in response to rewards during risk-taking tasks (Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, online March 24).

Susie Bean Team
Dr. Layla Salek