Sonoran UCEDD’s Jamie Edgin Awarded a 5-year, $2.9 Million Grant to Test Tool for Measuring Memory of Children with Intellectual Disabilities

Jamie EdginNetwork Partner Updates
DDNN Winter 2016/17
Sonoran UCEDD
University of Arizona

Dr. Edgin is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and directs its Memory Development and Disorders Lab, as well as Sonoran UCEDD faculty at the University of Arizona. Her research focuses on memory and cognition, often involving children with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. A few years ago, she created a tabletop version of an interactive game that tests memory (similar to the card game “Concentration”) in response to the lack of standardized memory tests designed for children with intellectual disabilities that she could use in her research. In 2015, she brought her prototype to Tech Launch Arizona (the UA division dedicated to helping campus researchers move their innovations to market) and was awarded a $71,000 asset development grant that allowed her to work with Tucson-based Galatea Studios (a firm that does app and game design and development) to translate her concept into an Android touchscreen-based battery of tests. The tests cover a lot of different domains of memory, such as visual recognition, being able to associate pieces of information, being able to remember over a delay, and working memory.

young girl using touch-screen assessment toolIn October 2016, Dr. Edgin was awarded a five-year, $2.9 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, along with additional development funding from the LuMind Research Down Syndrome Foundation, to continue to develop the tool and test its effectiveness. She is working with collaborators at Drexel University and the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis to validate the memory-testing tool. During the first six months of the grant, Dr. Edgin will be collecting feedback on the test from a panel of worldwide scientific experts in medicine, pharmacy, memory and intellectual disabilities. This will be followed by in-person testing with children at the UofA, UC Davis and Drexel University.

There are very few assessments that are designed for younger children, as most that are available are for children over 5 years old; similarly, there are testing limitations for children with intellectual disabilities who cannot always complete assessments designed for typically developing children. If found to be effective, the assessment tool Dr. Edgin has created could change how researchers worldwide measure memory in typically developing children ages 3 to 6 and children up to age 18 who have intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome or Fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition that causes intellectual disability and symptoms similar to autism. While the study is a validation of the tool, it will also help researchers better understand how memory develops in typical children, as well as children with intellectual disabilities.