Behavioral and neural measures of infant responsivity increase with maternal multisensory input in non-irritable infants

Mary Lauren Neel*, Arnaud Jeanvoine, Alexandra Key, Ann R. Stark, Elizabeth S. Norton, Lance M. Relland, Krystal Hay, Nathalie L. Maitre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Parents often use sensory stimulation during early-life interactions with infants. These interactions, including gazing, rocking, or singing, scaffold child development. Previous studies have examined infant neural processing during highly controlled sensory stimulus presentation paradigms. Objective: In this study, we investigated infant behavioral and neural responsiveness during a mother–child social interaction during which the mother provided infant stimulation with a progressive increase in the number of sensory modalities. Methods: We prospectively collected and analyzed video-coded behavioral interactions and electroencephalogram (EEG) frontal asymmetry (FAS) from infants (n = 60) at 2–4 months born at ≥ 34 weeks gestation. As the number of sensory modalities progressively increased during the interaction, infant behaviors of emotional connection in facial expressiveness, sensitivity to mother, and vocal communication increased significantly. Conversely, infant FAS for the entire cohort did not change significantly. However, when we accounted for infant irritability, both video-coded behaviors and EEG FAS markers of infant responsiveness increased across the interaction in the non-irritable infants. The non-irritable infants (49%) demonstrated positive FAS, indicating readiness to engage with, rather than to withdraw from, multisensory but not unisensory interactions with their mothers. Results: These results suggest that multisensory input from mothers is associated with greater infant neural approach state and highlight the importance of infant behavioral state during neural measures of infant responsiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere3253
JournalBrain and Behavior
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • electroencephalography
  • mother-infant interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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