A universal sign of motherhood is the lullaby. The world over, mothers sing to their babies, whether Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, their favorite song from the radio, or even random notes. This universality makes the simple lullaby a great window into the human mind. In a new study, cognitive neuroscientists found that lullabies soothe both moms and babies simultaneously, while playsongs increase babies’ attention and displays of positive emotion toward their mothers.
The behavioral implications of music are vast, says Laura Cirelli of the University of Toronto Mississauga, who is presenting the new work on maternal singing at the 25th meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) in Boston today. “Infant brains must be able to track auditory events in a predictive manner to make sense of music,” she explains, and many complex things are going on in their brains to make that possible.
From infancy to old age, music demands much from the human brain. Learning more about how we process music is helping scientists better understand perception, multisensory integration, and social coordination across the lifespan. Technological advancements – for example, more portable electroencephalography (EEG) and electrophysiology set-ups and- are allowing cognitive neuroscientists to study music in a variety of situations, from mother-child interactions to live concert halls.