Sing to me, baby: Infants show neural tracking and rhythmic movements to live and dynamic maternal singing.
Nguyen, T., Reisner, S., Lueger, A., Wass, S. V., Hoehl, S., & Markova, G. 2023. BioRxiv
Infant-directed singing has unique acoustic characteristics that may allow even very young infants to respond to the rhythms carried through the caregiver’s voice. The goal of this study was to examine neural and movement responses to live and dynamic maternal singing in 7-month-old infants and their relation to linguistic development. In total, 60 mother-infant dyads were observed during two singing conditions (playsong and lullaby). In Study 1 ( n = 30), we measured infant EEG and used an encoding approach utilizing ridge regressions to measure neural tracking. In Study 2 ( n = 30), we coded infant rhythmic movements. In both studies, we assessed children’s vocabulary when they were 20 months old. In Study 1, we found above-threshold neural tracking of maternal singing, with superior tracking of lullabies than playsongs. We also found that the acoustic features of infant-directed singing modulated tracking. In Study 2, infants showed more rhythmic movement to playsongs than lullabies. Importantly, neural coordination (Study 1) and rhythmic movement (Study 2) to playsongs were positively related to infants’ expressive vocabulary at 20 months. These results highlight the importance of infants’ brain and movement coordination to their caregiver’s musical presentations, potentially as a function of musical variability.