Study: Direct eye contact with babies syncs brain waves

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LONDON (CBS) Researchers in England have found good eye contact between a parent and baby may go beyond just bonding.

Researchers at Cambridge University fitted Helen Harrison and her eight-month-old baby, Anya, with special caps to measure their brain activity. Then, they had Helen look directly at Anya while singing.

The mother then continued to sing but looked away. The study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that during direct eye contact, adult and baby brain waves began to synchronize. When their eyes wandered, the brain activity didn't match up as well.

"We think this is to do with their ability to detect gaze as a cue for readiness to communicate and readiness to engage," said Victoria Leong, one of the University of Cambridge researchers.

Scientists also had babies watch a video of a researcher looking straight ahead -- then away -- with similar results. The infants vocalized more, and their brainwaves matched those of the researcher when their eyes locked. The findings provide more insight into how babies can connect, learn, speak, and listen.

"It might be the case that direct eye contact between infants and caregivers stimulates communicative development and language development," Leong said.

Thirty-six parents and babies took part in the study. Ultimately, researchers say, gazing at your baby can help get the two of you in sync.