Zimmerman Receives NIH Award under ECHO to Integrate Non-Nutritive Suck and Eye Tracking as markers of Neurodevelopment

Emily ZimmermanDr. Emily Zimmerman, Project 1 Co-Investigator and the Early Career Investigator for the center, has been awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) subcontract to expand her work with Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO), a national study which CRECE has been taking part in since the fall of 2016. ECHO aims to investigate the ways in which early exposure to a range of environmental factors influence the short- and long-term health of children. Zimmerman’s accepted project entitled “Integration of Non-Nutritive Suck and Eye Tracking as markers of Neurodevelopment across Five ECHO Cohorts,” will be supported by the ECHO Coordinating Center at Duke University.

The key technology that will be utilized as a part of the newly granted ECHO subcontract, the non-nutritive suck device, was developed by Zimmerman to quantitatively test suck patterns in infants. This information is a key indicator of infant neural development, and the ultimate goal is to use this data to develop intervention processes to improve outcomes for babies born prematurely. Thus far, the non-nutritive suck device has been used as part of CRECE’s research, which investigates in utero air pollutant exposures alongside postnatal exposures and developmental delays in infants born in Puerto Rico. The research project will also include infant eye tracking as a measure of neurodevelopment, and will compare NNS and eye tracking data across five ECHO cohorts. This project is a continuation of the collaborations between Dr. Zimmerman and Dr. Susan Schantz of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Congratulations, Emily! The CRECE team is proud of this major achievement.