UEL Baby Dev Lab

Interpersonal neural entrainment during early social interaction

Wass, S., Whitehorn, M., Marriott-Haresign, I/, Phillips, E., & Leong, V. 2020. Elsevier Current Trends

Currently, we understand much about how children’s brains attend to and learn from information presented while they are alone, viewing a screen – but less about how interpersonal social influences are substantiated in the brain. Here, we consider research that examines how social behaviors affect not one, but both partners in a dyad. We review studies that measured interpersonal neural entrainment during early social interaction, considering two ways of measuring entrainment: concurrent entrainment (e.g., ‘when A is high, B is high’ – also known as synchrony) and sequential entrainment (‘changes in A forward-predict changes in B’). We discuss possible causes of interpersonal neural entrainment, and consider whether it is merely an epiphenomenon, or whether it plays an independent, mechanistic role in early attention and learning.

Parental frontal brain activity tracks infants’ attention during shared play

Wass, S., Marriott-Haresign, I., Whitehorn, M., Clackson, K., Georgieva, S., Noreika, V., & Leong, V. 2020. PsyArXiv

Previous research has suggested that similar patterns of neural activity occur between watching someone else perform an action and performing it oneself. Here, we demonstrate a comparable phenomenon: that, while engaged in free-flowing naturalistic parent-child play, parents’ oscillatory activity recorded overfrontal areas co-varies with their infants’ attention patterns, independent of their own attention patterns. We also found weaker evidence for the opposite relationship: that infants’ brain activity tracks adults’ attention. We demonstratethis by recording dual EEG in 12-month-old infants and their parents while they were engaged in joint and solo tabletop play with toys, andanalysing the time-lagged temporal associations between infants’ attention towards play objects and adults’ neural activity, and vice versa. We discuss how these inter-dyadic brain-behaviour correspondences relate to actor-observer relationships previously been documented, and consider their role asdriversof inter-personal neural synchrony.

Oscillatory entrainment to our early social or physical environment and the emergence of volitional control

Wass, S., Perapoch Amadó, M., & Ives, J. 2022. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

An individual’s early interactions with their environment are thought to be largely passive; through the early years, the capacity for volitional control develops. Here, we consider: how is the emergence of volitional control characterised by changes in the entrainment observed between internal activity (behaviour, physiology and brain activity) and the sights and sounds in our everyday environment (physical and social)? We differentiate between contingent responsiveness (entrainment driven by evoked responses to external events) and oscillatory entrainment (driven by internal oscillators becoming temporally aligned with external oscillators). We conclude that ample evidence suggests that children show behavioural, physiological and neural entrainment to their physical and social environment, irrespective of volitional attention control; however, evidence for oscillatory entrainment beyond contingently responsiveness is currently lacking. We also discuss environmental entrainment as a mechanism that might explain why periodic environment rhythms facilitate sensory processing, and explain the relationships observed between how periodic a child’s environment is and their long-term development of volitional control.