Eye Contact Connects Adults to Infant Brain
4 th February, 2018: Look into the eyes of an infant as you speak to it. It connects you directly to the brain of the child. Eyes are gateways to the soul of the kid!
It is common that as infants and adults communicate, they exchange social signals of presence and availability with eye contacts. Any communication is achieved through a kind of sync between the neural activities of the speaker and listener. The nonverbal communication between an adult and an infant is also achieved similarly through such neural synchronization. These observations are made by the researchers of the University of Cambridge and their results are published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The study explored the question whether infants can synchronize their brainwaves to adults too and how the eye contact influences it. The team examined the brainwave patterns of infants using electroencephalography (EEG), which measures patterns of brain electrical activity via electrodes in a skull cap worn by the participants. They compared the infants' brain activity to that of the adult who was singing nursery rhymes to the infant.
In the first of two experiments, the infant watched a video of an adult -- whose brainwave patterns had already been recorded -- as she sang nursery rhymes. First, the adult was looking directly at the infant. Then, she turned her head to avert her gaze, while still singing nursery rhymes. Finally, she turned her head away, but her eyes looked directly back at the infant.
It was found that during live interactions, infants also influenced the adult more during Direct than Indirect gaze. Further, infants responded with vocalization more frequently during live direct gaze, and individual infants who responded longer also elicited stronger synchronization from the adult.
These results demonstrate that direct gaze strengthens bi-directional adult-infant neural connectivity during communication. It can be interpreted as: ostensive social signals could act to bring brains into mutual temporal alignment, creating a joint-networked state that is structured to facilitate information transfer during early communication and learning.
The results give strong evidence of effectiveness of eye-to- eye contact to communicate and to instruct a child to make the communication more efficient.