All About Babies

Making Eye Contact With Your Baby Can Boost Their Learning & Communication Skills

New research shows there's a significant benefit to looking your L.O. in the eye.

Mom making eye contact with baby s_oleg/shutterstock

From the day you welcome them into the world, you want to be able to connect with your little one -- and of course do everything you can to boost their smarts and chances of being skillful communicators on their own. Now, a new study points to one simple thing parents can do to meet this goal: make eye contact. Researchers at the University of Cambridge say that when you make eye contact with a baby, you sync their brainwaves to yours. This could, in turn, bolster their learning and communciation skills.

Previously, scientists knew that interacting with your L.O. causes a synchronization of their heart rate and emotions. But this research marks the first time they've tested it with the brain, reports The Telegraph.

The University of Cambridge study, which was published in the journal PNAS, watched as 36 infants gazed at their moms. The team used electroencephalography (EEG), which measures electrical activity via electrodes in a skull cap. As it turned out, the babies' brainwaves aligned with their mothers', and the baby made more effort to try and communicate when the adult’s gaze met their’s. The babies also made more vocalizations when they were in sync.

Dr. Victoria Leong, the lead author on the study, explained to The Telegraph: “When the adult and infant are looking at each other, they are signalling their availability and intention to communicate with each other. We found that both adult and infant brains respond to a gaze signal by becoming more in sync with their partner. This mechanism could prepare parents and babies to communicate, by synchronizing when to speak and when to listen, which would also make learning more effective.”

The finding isn't much unlike other studies that have shown when two adults talk to one another, they're better able to communicate if their brainwaves match. Other research has shown that being excited about a subject at school can cause student's brainwaves to sync up with their classmates -- and they learn better as a result.

The researchers say more work needs to be done to figure out what exactly causes this synchronous brain activity. In the meantime, knowing that something as easy as making eye contact can make  such a difference for your child is exciting news for parents everywhere.