Children learn what to pay attention to in the environment by following where other people are looking.

This is an important skill especially once formal education begins but some children find these “gaze cues” more difficult to follow than others. In this project we will use whole-brain functional imaging (fMRI) to identify the neural signature of gaze following in school age children, between 8 and 12 years of age. While in the MRI scanner we will show your child pictures of humans and dogs looking in different directions because we are interested in whether the underlying brain structures are sensitive to experience. This knowledge will help us better understand how experience changes the brain and it will provide potentially important information about the benefits of having pets in the home.

During your child’s MRI session, they will be temporarily placed in a strong magnetic field within the MRI scanner. Different brain tissues react differently to the magnetic field, and the scanner detects and records these changes. From this information we will be able to construct a visual map of your child’s brain that we can use to identify different regions and connections. During the MRI scan session your child will be asked to perform simple attentional tasks (like push a button on a controller when they see a shape change in colour) while lying in the scanner. This task will be explained and shown to them before they are put into the scanner. If your child meets the criteria assessed by a screening questionnaire, this procedure is very safe.


Children between the ages of 8 and 12 years with and without an ADHD diagnosis and their parents are invited to participate.

Please note that MRI and imaging-based factors may mean some participants cannot participate (e.g., the presence of some unremovable metals on or in one's body). The research team will communicate any possible factors that may make a child ineligible at the earliest possible time.

Participant benefits

It should be recognised that it is not expected that your child will receive direct health or other benefits from participation in this study. The data they provide, however, will help us to advance scientific understanding of how the brain develops and supports social functionality and communication. You will receive $40 for one hour of MRI scanning. Your child will also receive a certificate and a picture of their brain.

Register your interest 

To register your interest, visit the link below. 

Register your interest

This study has been approved by The University of Queensland Human Research Ethics Committee [Approval No.2022/HE002227]..