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Birkbeck celebrates ‘topping out’ of new ToddlerLab

The final brick was placed on the new facility, which will provide opportunities for major research to better understand the cognitive functions of toddlers’ brains.

On 21 November Birkbeck celebrated the topping out ceremony of the Wohl Wolfson ToddlerLab, as the last brick was placed atop of the new building, marking the end of its construction.

The ToddlerLab will be part of the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development (CBCD) at Birkbeck, a major research centre in the field of cognitive neuroscience and psychology. Already home to the world-leading BabyLab, the CBCD has spent the past twenty years investigating the psychological processes in infants’ brains and they have uncovered major insights into child development. The BabyLab scientists have identified what could be the earliest marker of autism in babies, examined the links between Down’s syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease and gained new understanding of the effects of screen time on babies as young as six-months-old, among other hugely impactful research projects.

The ToddlerLab will provide Birkbeck’s scientists with a new facility in which they can extend their research to older children, who require different environments and types of equipment. Where babies can sit on their parents’ laps, the ToddlerLab will be equipped with wireless technologies, to allow the toddlers to run around, in turn enabling the scientists to see how their young brains respond to different activities and stimuli. The scientists are currently looking for other early markers for autism and other developmental disorders, such as ADHD, by studying children who have an older brother or sister with one of these conditions.

The building was made possible thanks to generous donations totalling £3.7 million from a number of charitable trusts, as well as friends and alumni of Birkbeck. Attending the ceremony were representatives from the two founding donors to the project; Sir Ian Gainsford and Kate Goldberg from the Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation and Paul Ramsbottom from the Wolfson Foundation. The £1.3 million and £800,000 donations that these organisations respectively made were vital in making this building possible.  After laying the final bricks within the building, they were invited to an early tour of the facility and to celebrate the culmination of the build.   

Also in attendance were members of the BabyLab team, the building’s contractors, and Birkbeck’s Estates and Development & Alumni teams, who have all played an important role in making the new facility possible.

Professor David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck, said: “The more we understand the early signs of developmental conditions like autism, the quicker we can target support services, develop interventions or provide coping strategies. It is a great honour to welcome the funders of the ToddlerLab here today, whose generosity promises to transform the lives of people with autism and their families long into the future. Thank you for the remarkable difference you have made.”

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