Skip to main content

Project Title

A feasibility study of the Attention Control Training (ACT) intervention amongst very preterm (VP) infants.

Research Focus:

Maternal and Child Health

Funder & Dates

Enabling Research Award– Public Health Agency HSC R&D Division

February 2018-January 2019

Principal Investigator or Primary Supervisor (if PhD project)

Dr Oliver Perra

Co-Investigators or additional supervisors

Prof Fiona Alderdice; Prof Mike Clarke; Dr Kostas Papageorgiou.

Research Fellow(s) or PhD Student


Name & Institution of Collaborators

Dr Sam Wass (University of East London); Mrs Alison McNulty (TinyLife); Dr David Sweet (Belfast Trust)

Name of External Partner Organisations


Description of Project


Infants born before their due delivery date (known as preterm babies) may display school and learning problems as they grow up. Researchers believe that some of these problems are caused by difficulties that babies born preterm have in paying attention to and taking notice of objects and events around them. These difficulties can be observed from the first year after birth.


Researchers have developed ways in which they can train infants to attend to objects and events. They do this by using computers that can track where the infant is looking and display cartoons where they can see them.

Infants enjoy watching these cartoons, and this can help infants learn to pay attention for longer periods, or to take notice of different objects on the screen. One-year-old infants who take part in these games also become better at memorising objects.


Researchers hope these games can help preterm infants build the starting blocks that will allow them to become better learners.


Children who learn to control what they pay attention to may also become better at managing their own emotions and behaviour. In summary, preterm infants that learn to control their own attention through this training may become better at learning and at controlling their emotions. In order to find out whether or not the training works, we will compare the abilities of infants that have completed the training with another group of preterm infants who have not received the training, but are otherwise similar in age and other characteristics.

Associated with the project.



Add links/URLs to external pages, e.g., study webpage, reports, publications etc.


Any other relevant information

If you would like to receive more information about this study or register your interest, please contact researchers Matthew or Delfina ( at 028 9097 2678, or call/text us at 0739 379 8344”