Disorders of attention, social, and communicative functioning have become a significant public health concern yet we lack a systematic data base characterizing the typical development of basic building blocks that support optimal developmental outcomes. Attention is the gateway to all we perceive, learn, and remember, however, it remains a significantly understudied topic in developmental science. Typically developing infants show heightened attention to faces, voices, and infant directed speech and this is critical for scaffolding cognitive, social, and language development. In contrast, children with autism show social orienting impairments marked by decreased attention to these stimuli as compared with nonsocial events, and serious deficits in social and communicative functioning. These capabilities depend critically on early attention and intersensory processing skills, the ability to integrate information across the senses, particularly in dynamic faces, voics and social events. However, there currently are no individual difference measures of intersensory processing for infants or young children and the pathways by which intersensory processing skills affect attention and later social, cognitive, and language development remain poorly understood, presenting serious obstacles to identifying the emergence of atypical developmental patterns in infancy. The present proposal addresses these needs. We have developed the first two individual difference measures of attention and intersensory processing that can be used with infants and young children. They assess attention orienting, disengaging, maintenance and speed and accuracy of intersensory processing for dynamic, audiovisual social and nonsocial events. The present proposal will provide the first longitudinal data sets revealing developmental trajectories for these basic building blocks of attention and intersensory processing in typical development across 3 to 42 mos of age (Aims 1 and 2). This will provide a critical basis for identifying atypical developmental trajectories. Using a structural equation approach to growth curve modeling, we will then test models of association between developmental trajectories for these measures with cognitive, social, and language outcomes at 18, 30, and 42 mos (Aim 3). This will elucidate the most viable models of influence through which intersensory processing and attention skills affect social, cognitive, and language outcomes, contributing to developmental theory, knowledge, and guiding interventions. Finally, we develop and test a procedure for training intersensory processing skills and assess its effectiveness in a transfer test (Aim 4). Improvement and the conditions that foster it will lay a foundation for developing intersensory interventions. These goals have high health relevance. They will reveal the typical development of infant attention and intersensory processing skills and their effects on child outcomes, providing the first systematic body of basic research designed to be relevant and easily translated to identifying early atypical trajectories of attentin and intersensory processing and guiding interventions.

Public Health Relevance

Using two exciting new individual difference measures, this research will assess infant and child development of attention and intersensory processing skills that form key building blocks for social, cognitive, and language development. Performance on these measures across age, from 3-42 months, will be used to predict the child's social, cognitive, and language outcomes. These findings will provide a wealth of important new information about typical developmental patterns for these fundamental skills at a level of detail that is novel and necessary for identifying the emergence of atypical developmental patterns in disorders such as autism, and for guiding the development of interventions.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
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Freund, Lisa S
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Florida International University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Lickliter, Robert; Bahrick, Lorraine E; Vaillant-Mekras, Jimena (2017) The intersensory redundancy hypothesis: Extending the principle of unimodal facilitation to prenatal development. Dev Psychobiol 59:910-915
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Beebe, Beatrice; Messinger, Daniel; Bahrick, Lorraine E et al. (2016) A systems view of mother-infant face-to-face communication. Dev Psychol 52:556-71
Bahrick, Lorraine E; Todd, James Torrence; Castellanos, Irina et al. (2016) Enhanced attention to speaking faces versus other event types emerges gradually across infancy. Dev Psychol 52:1705-1720
Bahrick, Lorraine E; Lickliter, Robert; Castellanos, Irina et al. (2015) Intrasensory Redundancy Facilitates Infant Detection of Tempo: Extending Predictions of the Intersensory Redundancy Hypothesis. Infancy 20:377-404
Gogate, Lakshmi; Maganti, Madhavilatha; Bahrick, Lorraine E (2015) Cross-cultural evidence for multimodal motherese: Asian Indian mothers' adaptive use of synchronous words and gestures. J Exp Child Psychol 129:110-26
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Bahrick, Lorraine E; Lickliter, Robert (2014) Learning to Attend Selectively: The Dual Role of Intersensory Redundancy. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 23:414-420
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Vaillant-Molina, Mariana; Bahrick, Lorraine E; Flom, Ross (2013) Young Infants Match Facial and Vocal Emotional Expressions of Other Infants. Infancy 18:

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