Directors of the School: Antonio M. Battro and Kurt W. Fischer
Directors of the Course: Sidney Strauss and Elena Pasquinelli
Program officer: María Lourdes Majdalani
Mother-infant brain-to-brain synchrony as a neuro-social mechanism for learning
Learning is an inherently social activity, but most neuroimaging studies only consider the learner in isolation, or when interacting with an inanimate "teacher" such as a computer. Social interaction is particularly crucial for infants who rely on adult caregivers to help them to differentiate between the information that should be learned or ignored. For example, 9-month-old American infants readily learn Mandarin phonemes when these are heard during live interactions with Chinese adults, but not when the same input is delivered by an inanimate object, television. However, the neural basis for such socially-mediated learning is unknown. In my work, I employ dual electroencephalography (EEG "hyperscanning") to assess how the brains of teachers (e.g., mums) and learners (e.g., infants) co-operate during the learning process. I am particularly interested in the relationship between social synchrony and brain synchrony. For example, joint attention is a social state of shared focus during which two individuals synchronise their gaze and attention to each other and an object. Infants learn and retain new information more readily during episodes of joint attention, which suggests that social synchrony (joint attention) might create a state of brain-to-brain synchrony between mothers and infants that is particularly adaptive for learning and memory.