Study 4

Does pregnancy cause changes in the behavioural and neural correlates of executive functioning performance?: A longitudinal EEG study

What is this study about?

This study hopes to better understand how pregnancy may change women’s cognitive functioning. Specifically, we are aiming to investigate whether pregnancy causes changes in brain regions associated with executive functioning. Because this potential change may have many health implications for mum and baby, we will use several computerised tasks to compare pregnant women’s executive functioning  to non-pregnant women in response to both food and non-food images. We will also use a range of different non-invasive measures of brain activity, such as EEG, to help us answer this question.

Who is eligible for this study?

In order to take part in this study you must have no prior history of significant medical or psychiatric illness and have no prior history of significant head injury or trauma.

This study requires two groups of women over the age of 18 to be part of this study. These are either 1) women who are actively trying to become pregnant; and 2) women who are not currently pregnant, have never been pregnant, and are not planning to become pregnant

What does this study involve?

Individuals interested in the study will be asked to participate in three initial testing sessions.

Session 1 (Demographics – Online):

Following commencement of this study you will complete an online demographic questionnaire which includes information such as age, schooling, employment, and weight history. It is expected to be take approximately 30-60 minutes to complete. You can do this at home at a time convenient to you.

Session 2 (Baseline 1):

During the first testing session you will complete a series of cognitive neuropsychologial tasks measuring memory, attention, and general cognitive function. These tests are standard psychological tests and are used to measure these abilities in a wide range of people. Several of these tasks will be computerised, with others involving traditional pen-and-paper responses. This session is expected to be completed within approximately 1 hour. At the conclusion of this session, participants will provided with a 5-Day Food Diary to complete over five consecutive days at home.

Session 3 (Baseline 2):

During the second testing session (EEG), you will be asked to complete several short computerised cognitive tasks (e.g. solving simple puzzles and some reaction time tasks). During the cognitive tasks we will use electroencephalography (EEG) to measure your neural responses to various stimuli. EEG is a non-invasive and safe tool used to measure brain wave activity. EEG involves the placement of electrodes on the head, and the application of a gel to the electrodes to enhance the signal. You may get a small amount of gel in your hair but this easily washes out. Height and weight will also be recorded during this session. Participating in this testing session will take up to 2 hours.

For women who fall pregnant within 12 months of beginning this study, you will be invited to complete the cognitive behavioural tasks (as per Session 2) and EEG tasks (as per Session 3) again during your first, second, and third trimesters of pregnancy. To participate in this part of the study, you will be asked to notify us when you become pregnant, and will be sent an email every three months (approximately) during the pre-conception stage.

For women who do not have any children and have no plans to conceive within 12 months,  you will be invited to complete the cognitive behavioural tasks (Session 2) and EEG tasks (Session 3) once more approximately 6 months after the initial testing session.

Where is this study located? 

The initial online questionnaire can be completed at a time and place that is convenient to you and that has a reliable internet connection. All testing sessions will be conducted at Deakin University’s Burwood campus.

Is there any reimbursement?

Yes. As a token of our appreciation, you will go into the draw to win a $100 Coles-Myer gift voucher at each time point as follows: pre-conception (baseline), Trimester 1/Time 1 for controls, Trimester 2, and Trimester 3/Time 2 for controls.