UEL Baby Dev Lab

Emotional valence modulates the topology of the parent-infant inter-brain network.

Santamaria, L., Noreika, V., Georgieva, S., Clackson, K., Wass, S., & Leong, V. 2020. Neuroimage

Emotional communication between parents and children is crucial during early life, yet little is known about its
neural underpinnings. Here, we adopt a dual connectivity approach to assess how positive and negative emotions
modulate the interpersonal neural network between infants and their mothers during naturalistic interaction.
Fifteen mothers were asked to model positive and negative emotions toward pairs of objects during social
interaction with their infants (mean age 10.3 months) whilst the neural activity of both mothers and infants was
concurrently measured using dual electroencephalography (EEG). Intra-brain and inter-brain network connectivity in the 6–9 Hz range (i.e. infant Alpha band) during maternal expression of positive and negative emotions
was computed using directed (partial directed coherence, PDC) and non-directed (phase-locking value, PLV)
connectivity metrics. Graph theoretical measures were used to quantify differences in network topology as a
function of emotional valence. We found that inter-brain network indices (Density, Strength and Divisibility)
consistently revealed strong effects of emotional valence on the parent-child neural network. Parents and children
showed stronger integration of their neural processes during maternal demonstrations of positive than negative
emotions. Further, directed inter-brain metrics (PDC) indicated that mother to infant directional influences were
stronger during the expression of positive than negative emotional states. These results suggest that the parentinfant inter-brain network is modulated by the emotional quality and tone of dyadic social interactions, and
that inter-brain graph metrics may be successfully applied to examine these changes in parent-infant inter-brain
network topology.