Vocal brain development in infants of mothers with serious mental illness (CAPRI-Voc): study protocol

Lucy Stibbs-Eaton, Catherine Hodgson, Adekeye Kolade, Jennifer Crowell, Jessica Gemignani, Holly Hope, Matthias Pierce, Alya Elmadih, Chen Zhao, Darragh Downey, Rebecca Elliott, Kathryn M Abel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


INTRODUCTION: Improving the lives of children and adolescents with parental mental illness (CAPRI) remains an urgent political and public health concern for the UK and European Union. Recurrent parental mental illness is believed to lead to fractures in the family, academic and social lives of these children, yet interventions are poorly targeted and non-specific. Part of an interdisciplinary programme of work (the CAPRI Programme; grant number: 682741), CAPRI-Voc aims to achieve two goals: first, to test the feasibility of our longitudinal imaging paradigm in mother-infant pairs where the mother has a diagnosis of severe mental illness. Second, to compare development of vocal processing in these infants with infants in the general population.

METHODS AND ANALYSIS: Recruitment of 100 infants of mothers with mental illness, alongside 50 infants of healthy mothers. Both cohorts of infants will undergo functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) brain imaging at three time points: 9, 12 and 18 months to explore differences between cohorts in their neural responses to vocal stimuli in our language paradigm. Mothers will complete an interview and psychological questionnaires. We shall also complete an infant developmental battery and mother-child interaction play session. Data on recruitment, retention and dropout will be recorded.

ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: It will be made clear that fNIRS is a safe, non-invasive technology widely used in infant clinical and psychological research. We shall reassure mothers that no definitive causal link exists between maternal mental illness and language development in infants, and that individual data will only exist as part of the wider dataset. As the study includes both children and vulnerable adults, all research staff will complete National Health Service (NHS) Safeguarding level 3 training. Dissemination will be via direct feedback to stakeholders, patient and advisory groups, and through presentations at conferences, journal publications and university/NHS trust communications. The study was approved through North West-Greater Manchester West Research Ethics Committee (17/NW/0074) and Health Research Authority (212715).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere053598
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2022


  • Adult psychiatry
  • Developmental neurology & neurodisability


Dive into the research topics of 'Vocal brain development in infants of mothers with serious mental illness (CAPRI-Voc): study protocol'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this