York prof Scott Adler awarded research gift to study C-section births

York University psychology Professor Scott Adler is the recipient of a $105,000 research gift from the Hallward Fund of the Toronto Foundation in support of his research project titled “Exploring the Caesarean Section Birth Experience as a Risk Factor for Attentional and Cognitive Consequences.”

Professor Scott Adler is behind a research project that looks at the difference in how well babies focus attention on an object of interest, depending on whether they were delivered by natural birth or caesarean section

Scott Adler

The six-figure gift was announced recently and will be delivered over three years.

The research led by Adler in the Faculty of Health will investigate whether there is a relationship between C-section birth and attentional developmental issues and disabilities later in life.

Adler’s recent research determined that infants born by C-section showed significantly slower eye movement responses, when measured in a distinct spatial attention task, than infants delivered vaginally (Adler & Wong-Kee-You, 2015).

In this new research project, Adler and his team propose to study a larger cohort of infant participants, with the addition of seven- and eight-year-old children and adults. The research seeks to determine whether slowed attention in C-section-delivered infants is transient or permanent.

The research will also explore the possibility that reactive control of attention could be more sensitive to the effect of a C-section birth, while voluntary control could be protected.

To examine this issue, the research team will test six-month-old infants and adults with the same tasks and same eye movement measures as used in the 2015 study by Adler and Wong-Kee-You.

“The testing methods are delivered in a randomized pattern for a few hundred milliseconds, eliminating the possibility of learned responses and making this testing method appropriate for all ages,” explains Adler. “In this way, direct comparisons can be made across all ages. If the effect of caesarean section on attentional responding is a transient effect, then we would expect the slowing of attentional responding to dissipate with age. If, however, the effect is not transient, then we would expect the slowing of attentional responding to remain constant into adulthood.”

The study will develop further understanding of the potential implications of C-section births on health, as well as psychological functioning and cognitive development.

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