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Dev Psychol. 2006 Jan;42(1):175-88.

From biological rhythms to social rhythms: Physiological precursors of mother-infant synchrony.

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Department of Psychology, Gonada Brain Sciences Center, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel.


Links between neonatal biological rhythms and the emergence of interaction rhythms were examined in 3 groups (N = 71): high-risk preterms (HR; birth weight <1,000 g), low-risk preterms (LR; birth weight =1,700-1,850 g), and full-term (FT) infants. Once a week for premature infants and on the 2nd day for FT infants, sleep-wake cyclicity was extracted from 4-hr observations and cardiac vagal tone was measured. At term age, infant orientation was tested with the Neonatal Behavior Assessment Scale. At 3 months, arousal modulation and emotion regulation were assessed, and mother-infant synchrony was computed from microanalysis of face-to-face interactions using time-series analysis. Sleep-wake amplitudes showed a developmental leap at 31 weeks gestation, followed by a shift in vagal tone at 34 weeks gestation. At term, differences among FT, LR, and HR infants were observed for biological rhythms in a linear-decline pattern. Sleep-wake cyclicity, vagal tone, newborn orientation, and arousal modulation were each uniquely predictive of mother-infant synchrony. The organization of physiological oscillators appears to lay the foundation for the infant's capacity to partake in a temporally matched social dialogue.

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