Taking Part in Research

Research studies help us answer big questions about people’s behaviour and their brains. Here are a few questions that the BOLD study is interested in answering:

Why do people act differently from one another?

What makes people good at some things but not so good at other things?

Are people’s brains the same? If not, why not?

We need help from lots of volunteers to carry out our research. Lots of the children and young people who take part in the BOLD study haven’t been part of a research study before. If you’re thinking about taking part in the BOLD study, you might not know what to expect.

To give you an idea of what taking part is like, here’s what some of our volunteers have said:



Lucas, aged 10:

“I liked the activities before we went in the scanner because they were fun.”

To find out more about these activities, visit the ‘Language and Memory Session’ page.



Bella, aged 13:

“My favourite part were the memory activities.”

“I found it quite cold in the scanner, however it was interesting hearing the sound of themachine knowing that it was scanning your brain.” 

To learn more about how an MRI scanner takes pictures of your brain, visit the ‘What is MRI’ page.





“I was especially pleased to get a 3D model of my brain.”


Today is Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) awareness day!

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Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) affects about 7% of 4-5 year olds, which makes it more common than lots of other childhood conditions. In fact, about two children in every primary school classroom are likely to have DLD!

Lots of people have never heard of DLD however, including people working in schools and making decisions about children’s education. That’s why we think it is important to raise awareness today! This week we have been posting daily facts about DLD on social media to help people to understand more about it.

Did you know?

  1. DLD cannot be explained by visual or hearing impairments, acquired brain damage or lack of language experience
  2. People with DLD have significant, on-going difficulties in understanding or using spoken language, or in both
  3. Children with DLD are 2x more likely to experience social, emotional and mental health concerns
  4. DLD affects more boys than girls
  5. DLD used to be known by lots of different names, such as Specific Language Impairment, but was renamed by the CATALYSE consortium in 2017
  6. DLD can have a big impact on a child or young person’s learning and achievement at school

Our study is trying to understand more about children who have difficulties with language.  In particular, we’re interested in whether the brain can give us clues about why some children have problems and others don’t. We hope that this information will help everyone to understand more about DLD, and hopefully find new ways to support children who have it.

We would love for you to take part in our study! Send us an email (bold.study@psy.ox.ac.uk) or click on the ‘Get Involved’ page of our website.

Our first 3D brain models!

As part of the BOLD study, we make model 3D brains from individual brain scans (as long as we don’t run into technical issues). Harriet and Saloni have just had their brains printed, and we’ve also received models for the first few children we scanned from the printers. The colours aren’t representative of our real brains, of course. The models are also smaller than our real brains – we print them to about 45% of actual brain size.

IMG_2099We think that brains are a little bit like faces – everyone’s is a little different, but we do expect some basic anatomy to be represented. What you see on these models is a representation of the cerebral cortex (the grey matter of the brain). It’s not very smooth, it looks a little bit like a walnut or the bark of a tree. Those different gyri (upward bumps) and sulci (the valleys in between) help to increase the area of the cortex that can fit in our skulls, so we can have more processing power.

These gyri and sulci also divide the brain up, and we know that different areas of the brain help us perform different functions. For example, the frontal lobe of the brain helps us with planning, reasoning, making decisions, but also helps us program and control our speech and limb movements. The parietal lobe’s function is somatosensation – a fancy word for dealing with touch and other sensations like pressure and pain. At the very back of the brain, the occipital lobe is responsible for vision. And just underneath the lateral fissure, the temporal lobe helps us makes sense of sound – so it’s a part of the brain the BOLD team is very interested in.


You can also see that the left and the right half of the brain are quite similar, but are not mirror images of each other. If you could open the model up, you would see the space the ventricles (fluid filled sacs in the brain) occupy – these help keep our brains light and buoyant. You would also see a bridge of fibres connecting the right and left half of the brain. This is the corpus callosum and helps the left and right half of the brain exchange information. As part of our project, we will examine if structural and functional differences between the left and right hemisphere are linked to variation in language ability.

If you get your brain scanned and printed as a 10-15 year old, you might notice that our brains look a little different from yours. If you peer very closely, you can see that our sulci are a bit deeper, and there is more space between the gyri. This is because as we grow older, the amount of grey matter we have actually decreases. We could be sad about this (we are!), but another way to think about it is that our brain decides which connections are the most efficient and then prunes away the rest. We also know that grey matter changes when we learn new information or skills, so our brains are constantly changing because of what we do.

If you want to know more about the brain and what it does, this page has lots of information.



DLD Makes Headlines

Last month, DLD made the front page of Tes magazine (formerly the Times Educational Supplement), under the title ‘Suffering in Silence’.


The article, written by Adi Bloom, focuses on the effects that DLD can have on school performance, and how little is known about it compared with other developmental disorders. As a bonus, it features our very own Dorothy Bishop!

The major aim of the BOLD study is to learn more about DLD from a scientific perspective, but we also hope that our study will help increase awareness of DLD in the general public. In the future, this could lead to more research into DLD, better treatments, and more specialised support in schools.

The article about DLD was also discussed on last week’s Tes podcast, which is worth checking out (particularly if you can’t access the magazine). Follow this link to listen: www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/tes-podcast-school-funding-teacher-recruitment-and-developmental. DLD is first mentioned at 10:40.

Even more recently, a short film produced by the RADLD (Raising Awareness of Developmental Language Disorder) campaign has reached the finals of the Charity Film Awards. The film’s stars, Ed and Dyls, want to help people understand what DLD is, why you need to know about it and how to support those with DLD!