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Using neuromarkers and saliva biomarkers to recognize the states of hunger and thirst in children and youth with disabilities


This study is about developing an interface that detects hunger/satiety, thirst, and desire to eat/drink from brain activity changes using a brain imaging technology called functional near infrared light spectroscopy (fNIRS), and from saliva biomarkers. In the future, we hope that such a study could be used to develop a device to help children and youth with severe disabilities to communicate their needs to eat or drink.

Call to action

Do you want to help us to develop an interface to communicate the needs of children and youth with disabilities to eat and drink? Consider participating in this research study.

Who can participate

We are looking to recruit 12 children and youth with disabilities with the following profile:

  • Are 5-24 years of age,
  • Are able to understand English,
  • Have normal or corrected to normal vision,
  • Are able to normally sense and communicate hunger/satiety and thirst,
  • Have no disease related to the salivary glands, oral mucosa, dry mouth, oral lesions or other contact sensitivity,
  • Do not require daily or several times a day hormone treatment,
  • Do not receive a chemotherapy session in the last two weeks before the data collection.

Funding agency

NSERC, Research Chair funding, and Schlumberger Stichting Fund

What's involved

  • You will attend two sessions at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital; the first is about 90 minutes long while the second is about 70-minutes long.
  • You will be asked to fast for at least 4 hours before the first session, but you will be asked to have a meal and water an hour before the second session.
  • You will wear headcaps with probes that will measure your brain activity.
  • You will provide saliva samples.
  • Food and water images will be displayed to you while recording your brain activity. 


Interested in participating

If you are interested in participating in this study or have additional questions, please contact Amal Al-Saqqaf at or at 416-425-6220 ext. 3508 with your interest, and she will get back to your shortly. Contacting us does not obligate you to participate in the study.

Additional information

Participants will receive a small token of appreciation to thank them for their time.

Learn more about this study