Sleeping Babies’ Brains Buzz with Activity

“This study shows that there is an activity going on in the infant brain,” said study team member Hugo Lagercrantz of the Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital in Sweden.

Peter Fransson, a neuroscientist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, Lagercrantz and colleagues scanned the brains of 12 sleeping infants for 10 minutes using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), finding five resting-state networks engaged in spontaneous activity. As with findings in adult brains, the regions were associated with visual, motor and auditory processing.

What does this mean for a new mom? “This confirms the concept that talking, singing and rocking the baby is not meaningless as earlier believed, but very good for the baby,” Lagercrantz told LiveScience.

For neuroscientists, the finding could shed light on how the human brain develops, since fewer networks were found in infant brains compared with those of adults.

“Now we have also shown there is a developmental aspect, that these networks perhaps gradually develop in the infant brain, or through adulthood and up,” Fransson said.

Maner’s experiments, which flashed pictures of attractive men and women and average-looking men and women in front of participants and measured the time it took to shift their attention away from the image, surprisingly showed little difference between the sexes.

“Women paid just as much attention to men as men did to women,” Maner said.

The study is detailed in the September issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.