Cuban Neuroscience Center, committed to infant neurodevelopment
The difficult situation caused by the spread of the new coronavirus around the world is a challenge for scientists, who are working hard to find the right antidotes to SARS-CoV-2, as well as treatments and tools to help alleviate the negative consequences on mental health, especially in children.
Given the importance of child care for Cuba, all specialists involved in children’s health and education have joined forces to address this situation.
The strengthening of institutional partnerships has been the hallmark of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic in Cuba and, for the Cuban Neuroscience Center (CNEURO), the links with the various bodies of the Ministry of Education (MINED), the Central Institute of Pedagogical Sciences (ICCP), the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP), the Maternal and Child Care Program (PAMI), the Cuban Society of Pediatrics, the “Enrique José Varona” Pedagogical University (UPEJV) and the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Havana (FP-UH) have been particularly productive.
In these exchanges, neurodevelopmental specialists have been working on answering two fundamental questions:
1) What is the impact of COVID-19 and confinement on the mental health, family dynamics, and learning and developmental processes of Cuban children?
2) How can we help reduce the negative effects of the pandemic on child development?
The answer to the first question has been the design of neurotechnological tools that can be used, with minimal instructions, by physicians, education specialists, teachers and parents, to assess the child population on a massive scale throughout the country.
One such product is the “Optima System,” which has four test-kits to assess a wide range of neurocognitive abilities that serve as a base for learning and behavior management. Ability to pay attention, memory or verbal reasoning are some of them. This system is installed in all the Guidance and Diagnostic Centers (CDO) in the country and offers a profile of the child and a series of recommendations addressed to the teacher with strategies and activities that can be useful to treat the problems found.
Another product, designed specifically for the assessment of the impact of confinement during the pandemic in 2020, is the application “Encuestador CNEURO”, a virtual poll for the Android platform, which includes two forms: Puericultura and ESDAN. It was developed free of charge by the Digital Solutions Group of the Digital Business Directorate of the Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA), which authorized its use, without mobile data consumption for three months, for all national users from March 24, 2021 (https://www.apklis.cu/application/cu.neurodesarrollo. cneuro.esdan).
Puericultura is a questionnaire created for pediatric care, aimed at supporting this specialty during the pandemic, designed by experts from the Directorate of the Maternal and Child Care Program (PAMI), the National Group of Puericultura, the Mental Health Directorate of the province of Havana and CNEURO, and will be used exclusively by the core Primary Health Care (PHC) teams, in charge of carrying out the childcare consultation.
The second, ESDAN (Evaluation of Child Health, Development and Learning), is aimed at parents or caregivers of children from 0 to 12 years of age to characterize the home environment and the presence of negative effects of confinement on child health, learning and development, adjusted to the child’s age.
Another very promising alternative aimed at answering the second question is CNEURO’s creation of “Optimal Stimulation” programmed by CITMATEL, currently under evaluation by the relevant authorities, consisting of a mobile device gaming platform that trains neurocognitive abilities serving as a basis for learning and that will be available to parents and teachers.
Another recently completed resource is the “NPED Stimulation” application, a cognitive stimulation guide, in Android format, to guide parents of children under six in the stimulation of their children’s sensory, motor, personal, social and language development. This application can also be useful for educators and other specialists who work with children of these ages.
These products have their origin and theoretical bases in projects approved for the National Neurosciences and Neurotechnology Program. They bring together the views of many disciplines such as psychiatry, pediatrics, psychology, pedagogy, neurology and neurosciences, among others, whose common goal is to protect the neurodevelopment of children and the nation’s mental capital.
Authors: DrSc. Rosario Torres Díaz
DrSc. Nancy Estévez Pérez
MSc. María del Carmen Machado Lubián
Lic. Yanet Campver García
Lic. Melissa Alomá Bello
MSc. Valeska Amor Diaz
MSc. Raysil Romero Quintana
Lic. Yuniel Romero Quintana
Lic. Lenna María Crespo Díaz
Calle 190 # 19818 e/ Ave 25 y Ave 27 Playa, La Habana, Cuba.