Have you ever played with your child & felt that sense of deep connection? Like you were somehow in tune with one another? Research suggests that you might quite literally be “on the same wavelength”. This concept, known as ‘synchrony’ has been studied since the 1970s but technological advances mean we can now see how it works at a neurological level.
These interactions are so important as they help babies understand the world around them & lay the foundation for successful social skills & future relationships. Research has established that when playing and communicating, baby & adult brain activity synchronises, rising & falling together in an almost dance-like way.
During these face-to-face interactions, the strongest areas of brain activation for both babies & adults is in the prefrontal cortex (where learning, planning & high-level functioning occurs). This is exciting as this brain region is thought to be particularly underdeveloped during infancy.
Baby & adult brains also seem to know what the other is going to do next! In one study, adult’s brain waves showed they were able to predict when an infant would smile & infant’s brains anticipated when the adult would use more ‘baby talk’. In this same study, the researchers were surprised to find that the infant brain was often ‘leading’ the adult brain by a few seconds, suggesting that babies do not just passively receive input but guide the interaction.
Other research shows that how adult & baby’s brains connect is influenced by our emotions. They found that when mothers expressed positive emotions their brain was more strongly connected with their baby’s. Our emotions literally change the way that our brains share information – positive emotions help us better communicate with our loved ones.
So next time you find yourself “on the same wavelength” as your baby, know that your brains are deeply connected & LITERALLY in tune with each other. These interactions are some of the most important your baby will ever have & you're doing the important work of establishing the foundation for all of future relationships.
References: Piazza et al 2019; Santamaria et al 2019