Brains Syncing Up
My Experience Interacting with Children
During December we were in Texas visiting our five year old granddaughter. She was quite fascinated with pictures and short videos we had recorded on our phones over the past few years. I noticed every time I was talking in a video with her that I was talking baby talk or at least trying to talk right on her level. I didn’t realize I talked that way with her until a few videos played. However, I have always been able to connect easily with children, getting them to laugh or smile. I have long known that adult brains will sync up but I never considered the effect with a baby.
After I read the research from the Princeton Neuroscience Institute I wondered if my brain was syncing up with my granddaughters. I did raise three boys, so maybe it is a lifelong habit on my part. Have you ever felt like you might have been on the same wavelength as a baby or your small child?
Brainwave Connection Research
Babies and young children learn from adults, which sets the foundation and the dynamics for a child’s development. An adult’s emotions impact the way they share information with everyone around them. The dynamics the parent sets has long been considered essential to a child’s development as they have so much to learn in their world.
Researchers at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute used a near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) on mothers and babies in a small study group to simultaneously measure the infant’s brain waves, as well as, the mother or experimenters. The infants were from nine to fifteen months of age.
The brain waves can be measured by an electroencephalogram (EEG), which is a noninvasive test.
There are several types of brain waves that include:
- Gamma - Higher mental activity, including perception
- Beta - Active busy thinking and processing, active concentration
- Alpha - Calm relaxed but alert
- Theta - Deep meditation, REM sleep
- Delta - Deep dreamless sleep
Each of these brain waves is at a different frequency and can be measured by the EEG. Beta waves reflect “Active, busy thinking, active processing, active concentration, arousal, and cognition”. The brain waves also change as a child matures.
Adult And Baby Brain Waves Synchronize During Eye Contact
Two Parts to the Research
This study started with forty-two toddlers and babies but twenty-one had to be excluded due to the infant’s excessive squirming. Another three infants would not wear the cap to measure their brain waves. That left eighteen infants for the study, which is a very small number of participants for any study. However, the results were consistent with each of the children.
First, the experimenter spent five minutes interacting with the baby or toddler while the child sat on their parent’s lap. The experimenter played games, sang nursery rhyme songs or read ‘Goodnight Moon” with the child.
In the second part of the experiment, the experimenter turned to their side and told a story to another adult, while the child played quietly with their parent. They no longer had eye contact. Brain waves were simultaneously measured during the different interactions.
The researchers found measurable connections in the brain wave activity during the interactions between the experimenter and child and during the lack of stimulation the corresponding brain waves ceased.
Collected data showed that 57 channels of the brain waves were infinitely higher during the fact-to-face interactions with the child. These particular brain waves reflect language processing and understanding another’s perspective. So, the child’s brain waves synced with the experimenter in several areas that involve a higher level of understanding the world.
Therefore, depression can have a negative impact on a parent’s relationship with their child and happy feelings will also be transferred in communication. Positive emotions help us communicate with anyone in a more efficient manner. Remember that communication is not just verbal but also non-verbal.
Parents Can Brain-Sync With Babies
The emotional communication between a child and their parents is essential in a child’s life. Looking your child in their eyes is also essential if you want to connect. I am sure further studies will be done exploring communication between parents and children. Positive communication is the best way for an infant to learn as their little brains continue to develop over many years.
While previous studies have shown that an adult brain syncs up when watching a movie or listening to someone telling a story, I believe this is one of the first study between an infant and an adult.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2020 Pamela Oglesby