Description: I am sure you do not need to be told how important play is in terms of infants and toddlers developing a solid understanding of their world and how to get around in it. Especially early on, in infancy, a great deal of that vital play is initiated by and involves parents (or older siblings). You may have also seen or heard some of the increasingly stated claim that parents’ engagements with their young children are vital to the adaptive growth of infants’ brains – in other words that interactive play with parents grows infant brains. If this is true what do you think that might look like if we were able to simultaneously monitor the brain activity of a parent and an infant while they played together? Think for a moment about what that might look like and then also think for a moment about the challenges one might face in trying to measure parent and infant brain activity in real time while they play and then read through the article linked below to see what one group of researchers found and how they managed the challenges of how to look for it in the brains of their research participants.
Source: Baby and adult brains ‘sync up’ during play, Science News, ScienceDaily.
Date: January 9, 2020
The processes that have evolved in order to support the complex adaptation of infants and children to the worlds in which they find themselves is amazing to observe from outside. The fact that human infants/children have the longest period of developmental dependency on caregivers of any species indicates that there must be a LOT going on ‘under the hood’ in their brains. The research described in the linked article gives us a look at just how that likely proceeds in real time. As well, did you catch the comment towards the end of the article suggesting that this sort of research might help us to better understand what happens when the parent-infant social connection or engagement falters or fails to establish when, for example, infants and children are on the Autism Spectrum. It is going to be fascinating to see what comes of this new possible line of inquiry into the basics of brain-building.
Questions for Discussion:
- What seems to happen to the brains of an adult and an infant while they are playing?
- Why might your answer to the previous question matter in terms of infant development and adaptation?
- How might the line of research described in the linked article help us to better understand what goes on developmentally for children on the Autism Spectrum?
References (Read Further):
Piazza, E. A., Hasenfratz, L., Hasson, U., & Lew-Williams, C. (2020). Infant and adult brains are coupled to the dynamics of natural communication. Psychological Science, 31(1), 6-17. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2018/07/04/359810.full.pdf
Nastase, S. A., Gazzola, V., Hasson, U., & Keysers, C. (2019). Measuring shared responses across subjects using intersubject correlation. https://academic.oup.com/scan/article/14/6/667/5489905
Santamaria, L., Noreika, V., Georgieva, S., Clackson, K., Wass, S., & Leong, V. (2019). Emotional valence modulates the topology of the parent-infant inter-brain network. NeuroImage, 116341. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811919309322
Chen, C. H., Castellanos, I., Yu, C., & Houston, D. M. (2019). What leads to coordinated attention in parent–toddler interactions? Children’s hearing status matters. Developmental science, e12919. https://dll.sitehost.iu.edu/papers/esther_ja_2019.pdf
Cañigueral, R., & Hamilton, A. F. D. C. (2019). The role of eye gaze during natural social interactions in typical and autistic people. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6428744/