Eye gazing: research shows your brainwaves sync with baby’s when you stare at each other

Kinderling News & Features

There’s something so deep, special and wonderful about looking into your bub’s eyes and have them gaze right back at you.

Now recent research tells us that this staring act is doing more than just giving you the warm fuzzies. When your child is making eye contact, their brainwaves actually synchronise with yours. And this helps them absorb information and communicate better!

Can bub read my mind?

Researchers have known for some time that when babies interact with their parents, their emotions and heart rate synchronise, but up until now no studies had been done to see if there is a mental link as well.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge examined the brain patterns of 36 babies and their mothers using electroencephalography (EEG) – which measures electrical activity via electrodes in a skull cap. While the mothers sang nursery rhymes to their children, researchers discovered that when the adults gazed at their child the brainwaves of both synchronised. The infants became more responsive and made more efforts to communicate vocally.

Listen to Kinderling Conversation:

Connection between parent and child

According to Dr. Victoria Leong, lead author on the study, “When the adult and infant are looking at each other, they are signalling their availability and intention to communicate with each other,” she said.

“We found that both adult and infant brains respond to a gaze signal by becoming more in sync with their partner. This mechanism could prepare parents and babies to communicate, by synchronising when to speak and when to listen, which would also make learning more effective.”

Previous studies have found brain synchronisation patterns exist between students who, when interested in the same subject, also learned better in class. So, it’s no wonder the same applies when a child interacts with their mother or father.

There are still questions around the science

Although the findings are consistent with previous studies of brainwaves, the scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes this fascinating brain synchronisation between parents and their children.

“We don’t know what it is, yet, that causes this synchronous brain activity. We’re certainly not claiming to have discovered telepathy!” said Dr Sam Wass, last author on the study.

“Our findings suggested eye gaze and vocalisations may both, somehow, play a role. But the brain synchrony we were observing was at such high time-scales – of three to nine oscillations per second – that we still need to figure out how exactly eye gaze and vocalisations create it.”

Start gazing

Well, regardless of how it happens, we think it’s pretty amazing! And given the developmental benefits, there’s never been a better excuse to while away the hours staring into your bub’s eyes!

This article was originally published on Babyology.