Infant hands grasping a research toy
Not much is understood about how babies develop manual skills during the first months after birth, particularly prior to six months of age. We suspect (hypothesize) that there are multiple patterns of skill acquisition that result in age-typical abilities by age 2. The purpose of the HUGS (Hand Use and Grasp Sensor) study is to begin to quantify those patterns by gathering data to support explanatory techniques such as latent growth modeling and predictive approaches such as machine learning. The clinical significance of identifying the range of normal patterns of hand use in infancy is that it also makes it possible to detect problematic patterns with greater accuracy. Early identification of developmental problems opens the way for children to get therapeutic intervention early, when plasticity is at its peak.
Accumulated grasp time

Pattern identification requires gathering data at frequent intervals during the time of a baby's rapid development .  The period of just one month can see an enormous amount of development in infants.  The need to check in  very frequently on what the baby is doing  means that our work is most effectively done not in the clinic or lab, but in the baby's home with the help of parents and others who care for the baby.  Home-based research means that parents (caregivers and, of course,  babies themselves) are our partners. We obviously can do nothing without families' help (and we are very grateful for it!). It’s important for HUGS to capture highly accurate and reliable data but equally essential to make sure HUGS is easy and convent to use in the home. 

Future Vision

The knowledge we are just beginning to acquire about the development of manual skills in infancy will translate to a range of smart toys that are routinely provided for every infant.  Mom and dad monitor their fitness status on their smartphones with  data streams coming in from their own wearable sensors. In the future, the youngest members of the household will have their own personal data streams popping up on mom and dad's dashboard as well. Among of these tracked wellness variables will be hand use and grasp development status.

Join Us!

We are actively recruiting families in the Washington, DC metropolitan area with babies not yet 3 months old to join in a home trial of the HUGS system.  If you think you might be interested in joining us, click here for  a FLYER on the study to learn more about it and contact the HUGS team to talk further!