Can you give me some basic information about the study?

Absolutely! This study has two parts:

  1. A short phone screen (10 minutes) where we will tell you more about the study and determine whether you and your child are eligible to participate in the lab session.
  2. The study visit, where you and your child will be invited to our lab to play games and complete interviews and questionnaires. Your child will also complete a safe non-invasive EEG where we record your child’s brain activity during child-friendly games. This visit takes approximately 3 hours, and includes plenty of time for bathroom and snack breaks.
Am I eligible to participate?

To participate, your child must be 4- to 7 years of age. Your child cannot have a serious chronic medical illness, severe developmental delay, or serious speech delay. At this point we are also not enrolling children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

We are seeking all children who meet the above criteria! Because we want to learn about suicidal thoughts and actions in early childhood we need to study children who have experienced them AND children who have not. Because suicidality is associated with many different mental health disorders, we are also interested in children who have had past or current struggles with mental health (e.g., depression, anxiety, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, etc.). By enrolling children with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, we hope to learn more about what sets children with suicidality apart from their peers, with the ultimate goal of prevention and treatment of early suicidality.

All children must be enrolled in the study by a legal parent or guardian.

Where are you located?

This study is taking place through the Early Emotional Development Program at Washington University School of Medicine. The lab is located at 4444 Forest Park Ave, St Louis, MO 63108, at the corner of Forest Park & Newstead Ave in the Central West End (CWE).

If you are driving here, we have reserved parking spaces for EEDP visitors in the lot outside our building. If you are taking public transit, we are located within walking distance of the CWE MetroBus and MetroLink stations.

We are also happy to arrange a car service to and from the lab for you and your child, free of charge.

How is this study being funded?

Dr. Laura Hennefield has received a 5-year award from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) that supports STARK.

Who makes sure this research is ethically appropriate?

All studies conducted by the Early Emotional Development Program, including STARK, have been thoroughly reviewed by Washington University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). The board carefully evaluates proposed studies before they begin and throughout the course of the study to ensure that the research is ethical and conducted in such a way that protects the privacy of participants, in addition to handling any comments or questions about the research. If you have any questions, please contact the IRB.

Can you tell me more about the EEG?

Does EEG hurt?
No, the recording itself is painless. Your child might experience minor discomfort when
we remove 5 small stickers from their face (two on their forehead, one on each temple, and one on their cheek). Sometimes hairs get caught in the cap, but we will do everything we can to make sure they don’t get pulled when we take the cap off.

Are there any risks?
There are some risks associated with EEG as discussed in the consent form. In general
there are very few risks, EEG is used on infants and there are toys that use the same

What is an electrode?
An electrode is a small, flat piece of metal with a wire attached. It records electrical
activity that comes from your child’s brain or muscles (like the muscles that control eye movements).

Is it dangerous to have electricity involved?
The electricity involved comes from your child’s brain waves or muscle movements, so it isn’t dangerous at all. There is no chance of being shocked or feeling anything from the electrodes.

What can you tell from my child’s EEG recording?
We are using your child’s recording to see how the brain responds to rewards and
disappointments. EEG allows us to see changes that are occurring that might not be
immediately reflected in your child’s behavior, but which are important nonetheless.

How long does the EEG session take?
It takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Your child will watch a movie and play a game
involving wins and losses to earn a cool prize. They can also get a picture of themselves with the silly cap on.

Can I find out about the study results?

Absolutely! We send out a yearly newsletter to all study participants to keep them updated on the study progress and in-progress findings. We will also share news of published findings once they are available (this can take longer, because our data first needs to be collected, cleaned, analyzed, and written-up, and then go through a rigorous peer-review process)!

You can also check out our STARK in the News tab to read about our findings that have been written up in the popular press.

Please Note: This is a basic developmental research study. If you have concerns about your child’s safety please seek immediate care.