A mother’s emotional state plays a role in determining how well they tune with the baby.
In a study recently published in the journal NeuroImage, researchers at University of Cambridge found that the mother and baby’s brains work together as a “mega-network” by synchronising brain waves when they interact. The mother’s brain becomes more strongly connected with that of the baby when the mom expresses more positive emotions. This, in turn, helps the baby to learn and their brain to develop.
Moms and babies were found to synchronise their brain waves, an effect known as interpersonal neural connectivity, particularly in the frequency of 6-9 Hertz.
The study said that positive interaction between the mother and baby, with lots of eye contact, enhances the ability of their brains to operate as a single system. This boosts efficient sharing and flow of information between the mother and the infant.
“When the neural connection between mothers and babies is strong, babies are more receptive and ready to learn from their mothers,” said study author Dr Vicky Leong, University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology. “At this stage of life, the baby brain has the ability to change significantly, and these changes are driven by the baby’s experiences. By using a positive emotional tone during social interactions, parents can connect better with their infants, and stimulate development of their baby’s mental capacity,” the author added.
The results also suggested that babies of depressed mothers might show less evidence of learning owing to weaker neural connection between the mother and infant. Mothers who experience low or negative mental state persistently, tend to interact with the baby less.
“Depression can have a powerfully negative effect on a parent’s ability to establish connections with their baby. All the social cues that normally foster connection are less readily available to the child, so the child doesn’t receive the optimal emotional input it needs to thrive,” said Dr Leong.
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