Baby Brain Study Says Babies Know You’re Fighting

A baby brain study has revealed that babies do notice and react to arguments, even if they appear to be asleep. The University of Oregon researchers studied 20 babies between the ages of six and 12 months who were brought to the lab each night to sleep in a scanner.

No, they weren’t exposed to their folks fighting about how much they were being paid to sleep in a scanner. Heh. Instead, they had someone read neutral nonsense phrases in different tones of voice while they used the functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) scanner to measure the activity in the baby brains.

Alice Graham, who conducted the research, said, “Even during sleep, infants showed distinct patterns of brain activity depending on the emotional tone of voice we presented.”

Babies from high-conflict homes — I’m pretty sure that’s a nice way of saying babies with parents who argue a lot — appeared to be the most sensitive to tones of voice, since their brains reacted the most to anger.

And it isn’t the first time that scientists have demonstrated that sleeping babies can pick up on the fact that their parents are upset or angry. An earlier brain study of 21 babies between the ages of three and seven months old performed at King’s College London led to much the same conclusion.

In that study, the babies were again asked to sleep in an MRI scanner, but the team played a variety of human vocalizations, including laughing and crying. The sad sounds resulted in more activity in the same part of the brain that’s active in adults who hear sad sounds while they’re awake.

Declan Murphy, a lead doctor in that study, noted, “You’d think that a sleeping baby wouldn’t be able to hear you, but clearly their brains are processing sounds while they’re asleep.”

What’s the takeaway from the baby brain studies? Apparently, even if you wait until baby is asleep to fight, the kid will still know about it.

[baby photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons]