Brain-to-brain synchrony in mother-child interactions

Trinh Nguyen, Ezgi Kayhan, Hanna Schleihauf, Daniel Matthes, Pascal Vrticka, Stefanie Höhl

Behavioral and affective attunement between caregiver and child are considered essential for attachment and emotion regulation (Stern, 1985). Especially sensitive caregiving is associated with behavioral and physiological synchrony during mother-infant interactions (Leclère, 2014). Brain-to-brain synchrony, proposed to facilitate communication between mothers and infants (Leong et al., 2017), is only recently being addressed in developmental research. Here, we present a dual functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) study looking at 36 mother-child dyads to investigate whether maternal caregiving and attachment affect brain-to-brain synchrony and the quality of mother-child interaction during a problem-solving task. Wavelet transform coherence is used to assess the cross-correlation between the two fNIRS time series. Preliminary results from linear-mixed model analyses reveal a significant increase in brain-to-brain synchrony in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and tempo-parietal junction (TPJ) when mother and child solved the task in collaboration in comparison to individual problem solving. Further decoding brain-to-brain synchrony in the collaboration condition, synchrony in both areas is associated with less time needed to solve one template. The findings highlight the complexity of neuro-behavioral synchronization between mother and child and will be further discussed in relation to attachment theory.

Department of Applied Psychology: Health, Development, Enhancement and Intervention
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Austrian Fields of Science 2012
501005 Developmental psychology, 501014 Neuropsychology
hyperscanning, NIRS, mother-child interaction, attachment, neural synchrony
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