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Brains Syncing Up

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

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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?

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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:

  1. Gamma - Higher mental activity, including perception
  2. Beta - Active busy thinking and processing, active concentration
  3. Alpha - Calm relaxed but alert
  4. Theta - Deep meditation, REM sleep
  5. 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.

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Research Results

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

In Conclusion

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.

References

  1. https://www.princeton.edu/news/2020/01/09/baby-and-adult-brains-sync-during-play-finds-princeton-baby-lab
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200109163956.htm
  3. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797619878698
  4. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-04464-4
  5. https://itsusync.com/different-types-of-brain-waves-delta-theta-alpha-beta-gamma

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

Comments

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 23, 2020:

Hi OLUSEGUN,

I am glad your enjoyed this article. Thank you for your commens.

OLUSEGUN from NIGERIA on March 22, 2020:

The study will go a long way in helping adults relationship with children. I enjoyed it.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 23, 2020:

Hi Genna, I agree with the importance of non-verbwal communication. I am glad you found the article so interesting and useful. I appreciate your comments.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on February 23, 2020:

Hello Pamela... Excellent article! "Positive emotions help us communicate with anyone in a more efficient manner. Remember that communication is not just verbal but also non-verbal." This is a must read for everyone!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 10, 2020:

Hi Alyssa, I agree that communication is the key to any relationship. I love the story about your son talking. I understand about wanting to slow time as children grow so fast and you want to enjoy each minute if possible. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

Alyssa from Ohio on February 10, 2020:

What an interesting topic! I fully believe that communication is key in any relationship, and it's especially important to connect with our children. Something fun.. I wanted my son to say "mom" first so badly that I would spend a good chunk of my time repeating the word to him while looking into his eyes, our faces lined up. My hard work paid off and it was such a precious moment when he said it :) Although, I spent so much time wanting him to talk and get just a little older so we could go on more adventures.. fast forward twelve years and now my son is incredibly talkative and I wish I could slow time just a little.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 03, 2020:

Hi Ann, Your grandchildren sound like the perfect age to check out the connection. It sounds like you are playing the perfect games with the 16 month old. He sounds like he is really paying attention to your expressions. Thanks so much for your comments.

Ann Carr from SW England on February 03, 2020:

This is fascinating, Pamela. I spend a lot of time with my grandchildren and, yes, I do experience that feeling of being on the same wavelength.

My youngest grandchild is now 16 months, an active and inquisitive toddler, into everything and moving at a remarkable speed! I play games and also sing songs or rhymes. I notice that he often studies my expression and looks into my eyes a lot.

One rhyme I do with him sitting on my lap. It begins with 'This is the way the lady rides..' and I bounce him on my knees, then '.... the gentleman rides..' and my knees go alternately up and down, then '...the farmer rides..' whereupon he gets bounced vigorously and plunged backwards 'into the ditch' (obviously with care!).

All the while, he is mostly watching my mouth, which I find curious though I suppose he's trying to work out the different words. He looks me in the eyes often and he anticipates the final part with glee, sometimes throwing himself back before I'm ready.

It's the glee that he shows that is so delightful but also the anticipation; he knew exactly what to expect after the 2nd or 3rd time I did it. He sits and waits with a hopeful look, for me to repeat it.

That interaction and sense of mutual understanding is beyond words and I find that any similar interaction with any of my grandchildren is such a privilege. Their age range is 19, 9, 9, 5, 4 and 16 months. Each has his or her understanding, favourite pastimes and activities of course but that interaction and wavelength is there with them all. How amazing human development is!

Thanks, Pamela, for all the information in this article, explaining the research, and making me think carefully about my own experience.

Ann

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 29, 2020:

Hi Shauna, I agree with you about eye contact starting in infancy and continued into adulthood. I react the same way you so. If someone is looking all over the place instead of me, then I figure that person is not interested in whatever I am saying.

I appreciate your generous comments and I am glad you found this article interesting.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on January 29, 2020:

Pamela, I think face-to-face communication is key, not only with parents and children, but adults as well. As adults we respond the same way when we're talking to someone who refuses to make eye contact. Conversely, if I'm trying to have a conversation with someone who's looking every where but at me, I lose interest, end the "conversation" and either walk away or busy myself with something else.

Bottom line: eye contact is key to communication.

Great article, Pamela. If this practice is begun in infancy, making eye contact will more than likely carry through to adulthood.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 27, 2020:

Hi Ms Dora, Thank you for commenting. I think improving our communication skills is a worthy endeaver.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 27, 2020:

A very meaningful study, and useful for all adults who interact with children. Thank you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2020:

Hu Peggy, You were fortunate to have a stsy at home mother who gave you the attention you both needed. Many children are in daycare and you don't always know if they are receiving quality care, but I think most of them are good.

This research does have enormous ramifications and I hope people understand the best way to teach the young children that have so much to learn. Thank you so much for your comments, Peggy.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 25, 2020:

Hi Pamela,

This research has enormous ramifications. My brothers and I were so fortunate to have a stay-at-home mother when we were young. She spent so much quality time with us, and we also had grandparents nearby who we also had frequent contact with during the days and weeks. My first thought after reading this was the impact of quality daycare for parents who have to use those services. Just think of the time each day that their children are learning language and other skills from those people instead of their parents. This article is certainly thought-provoking.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2020:

Hi Audrey, I think this is such fantastic news. I do think on some level that we have been communicating with babies this way but never thought about brain waves.

I appreciate your comments Audry.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on January 24, 2020:

This is a wonderful and very interesting topic. I've always noticed how babies look directly into my eyes when I communicate with them, whether I use a sound or a word. I'm so glad you've shared this research. Thank you very much!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 23, 2020:

Hi Lora, I really liked your suggestions about visiting people in nursing homes. That is a great suggestion. Thank you so much for your comments.

Lora Hollings on January 23, 2020:

This is a fascinating article, Pamela!

Our brains synching up with babies and having a positive impact on their language processing and understanding of another’s perspective. This research certainly has important ramifications. I think these studies can also give us some insights into our loved ones who are living in a nursing home. We need to go visit often and have eye contact with them and communicate positive thoughts. If we don't visit them or have much contact with them, no wonder so many end up depressed and without the proper emotional and intellectual stimulation to keep them healthy. Great job! Thanks for sharing.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 23, 2020:

Hi MG Singh, I imagine you have experienced the brain wave connection with a lover or a close friend but we never thought of it that way. I hope you will get to enjoy grandchildren.

I appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 23, 2020:

Hi John, I felt the same way when I read the research. I think we probably knew this somehow but brain waves were never discussed in that way as far as I know.

I am glad you liked the article and your comments are appreciated.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on January 23, 2020:

This was totally enthralling, Pamela. It makes total sense though and explains why young children are so quick to learn and copy what they see and hear their parents and siblings do. Thanks for sharing this interesting study.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 23, 2020:

I hope to reach this state. It must be a great experience with grandchildren. Your article is cerebral and ignites the brain. Thank you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 23, 2020:

Hi Liz, Maybe finding out the resuts of this study lets us all evaluate our communication with children and it is actually a good way to speak to anyone. Your comments are appreciated, Liz.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 23, 2020:

As I have been spending time with my young grandchildren, aged 2 and 9 months recently, I have read your article with great interest. Maybe this is why I open my mouth as I offee them a spoonful of food!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 23, 2020:

Hi Linda,

I agree that these studies could help us learn so much about behavior and I hope to see some more research. Thank you so much for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 23, 2020:

Hi Maria, This research was so fascinating and I think more will be done. I wonder about depression effects and the generational effects as well.

I appreciate your nice comments, as always Maria.

Love and hugs.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on January 23, 2020:

Dear Pamela,

This research is fascinating and validating for sure.

I had always considered depression to have genetic etiology. This post also shows the environmental connection in depression passing to the next generation.

Great work as usual - have a lovely day.

Love,

Maria

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 22, 2020:

You've shared some very interesting information. I hope more researchers study brain synchronization between a baby and an adult. The studies could be important in multiple ways.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 22, 2020:

Hi Eric. I have missed you and surely hope you are well.

i think the communication with your children is what counts the most and you have have done that quite well with your children. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on January 22, 2020:

So very interesting and well done. I cannot remember speaking bayby talk to any of my four. What good is it to teach them a language they already know. All my children young and old can finish each others statement with each other and me. Definite sync going on.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 22, 2020:

Hi Devika, I think it is so good to know the importance of eye contact and the right words for your child also. I appreciate you comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 22, 2020:

Hi Lori, The eye contact and pleasant words do make perfect sense.

I do enjoy the research and I think sorting it out while writing is the tougher job. I am glad you like the medical articles. Thank you for the very nice comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 22, 2020:

Hi Ruby, I agree about the importance of of eye contact. Thank you so much for your comments.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on January 22, 2020:

This was a really interesting hub. Making eye contact is so important, at any age, but especially children. Well done Pamela.

Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on January 22, 2020:

This was fascinating. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense that an adult and child synchronize at eye contact, that is if the communication is pleasant.

I am very impressed with your extensive research and ability to structure your information. Always love your medical articles.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 22, 2020:

Parent connecting to child and to better such issues is a helpful way to improve child development. This is an informative and well-researched hub on this subject. New information such as this one is a breakthrough for many parents.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 22, 2020:

Hi Flourish, I think there are still many unanswered questions about the brain. I wonder about some of the things you mentioned also. My youngest child was kind of hyper and people told me to get him on meds, which I refused to do. He turned out just fine. Children are remarkable.

I am glad to hear your child is okay. Your comments are much appreciated.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 22, 2020:

Makes you wonder about the kids who have attention issues or are blind or have parents with such issues. My child had mild to moderate delays as a baby and it was really odd. There was snyching and I felt she wasn’t reachable. I persisted until near exhaustion and years later she’s fine.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 22, 2020:

Hi Linda, i think you are right. Connecting with your child is so important. Generally speaking many people are too connected to their phones and social media. Children need your undivided attention. Thank you so much for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 22, 2020:

Hi Lorna, I agree that this would be a difficult experiment and the fact they lost over half of the children they started with certainly certainly proves the point.

I appreciate your comments and that this hold true for treating people with dementia is very interesting. I am so glad you enoyed the read.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on January 22, 2020:

"Looking your child in their eyes is also essential if you want to connect." That was a real eye-opener. Think of how many parents are not connecting with their children because they are too involved with their phones? This is fascinating. I have several friends who are teachers; I'll share this with them.

Lorna Lamon on January 22, 2020:

A fascinating article Pamela and considering the age of the children not an easy experiment to conduct. I have long believed that the more positive the connections between adult and child the more the child will learn. Children will often mimic their parents so body language and that emotional connection is so important. I also found that when treating people with dementia the same applies regarding facial expressions, tone of voice etc. This was an enjoyable and informative read.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 22, 2020:

Hi Bill, I am so glad to hear that you liked this article. I think I must have rewritten this article at least 3 times so it would make sense, but brain waves are so fascinating in my opinion. I hope Bev enjoys it too. Thanks so much for your comments.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 22, 2020:

I have always loved your articles, Pamela, but this might be my all-time favorite. This was absolutely fascinating. Thanks for sharing this information. I'll share it with Bev. I know she will love it too.