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Chapter 3

Chapter 3 - Biological Foundations: Roots in Neurons and Genes

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Stuart Kamenetsky

NotesFromReadingCHAPTER3BIOLOGICALFOUNDATIONSROOTSINNEURONSANDGENESPGS6596Biological Preparedness for Social InteractionHow Are Babies PreparedFrom Biological Rhythms to Social Rhythms A babys behaviour follows biological rhythms which they soon learn to control and regulate Babies who acquire biological regulatory skills over the first 3 months of life are able to interact with their mothers in synchronous way When infants are born 610 weeks prematurely biological rhythms such as the sleepwake cycle have not fully developedVisual Preparation for Social Interaction Infants are attracted to visual social stimuli They stare longest at objects that have larger visible elements movements clear contours and a lot of contrast elements that exist on the human facehairlines chins dark lips light skinBy 3 months infants can identify a face as a unique whole They look longer and show more brain activity in response to faces than objects and in response to their mothers face rather than a strangersAuditory Preparedness for Social InteractionA babys auditory system is well developed even before birth Babies can even remember a story they have heard before they were born Fetuses can distinguish sounds and rhythms and may even be biologically programmed to respond to the sound of human voicesBabies especially like a voice that is high in pitch with exaggerated pitch contours Infantdirected speech increases with increases in maternal oxytocin levels which suggests that this speech is part of a broader pattern of hormonally based caregiving behaviours designed to attract the infants attentionInfants also respond to speakers emotional tones responding positively to warm and inviting utterances and negatively to angry and prohibitory ones Early auditory skills and preferences thus have functional significance for social developmentSmell Taste and Touch Newborns can discriminate among different odours tastes and prefer those that adults find pleasant They cry less open their eyes and try to suck when they smell their mothers breast and they prefer the odour of their mothers milk to that of another motherInfants develop preferences for the food flavours consumed by their mothers One benefit of breastfeeding is that it provides the opportunity for the infant to become familiar with the flavours of the foods favoured by the mother her family and her cultureThe sense of touch is one of the first senses to develop Infants are able to discriminate among objects using only their sense of touch It is likely that infants come to recognize their mothers and fathers by their skin textures and touches as well as the appearance of their facial featuresBeyond Faces and Voices Primed to be a Social Partner By 2 to 3 months of age infants are enjoying facetoface play with their parents They show more positive facial expression vocalize more and exhibit less distress in these interactions than when they play with toys Parents model positive emotional expressions and encourage the infant to do the sameAttunement A pattern of mutual engagement between caregiver and infant by which the caregiver maintains attention and responds warmly to the infants signalsInfants who are exposed prenatally to cocaine have difficulty managing facetoface interactions and are more passive and withdrawn and express more negative affect Mothers who are depressed also have difficulty and react negatively to infantsWhy Are Babies PreparedInfants are prepared by evolution to expect certain types of environments and to process some types of information more readily and efficiently than othersThis preparedness is adaptive and useful for ensuring the survival of the human infant and more generally the speciesDevelopment depends on being born into and reared in a speciestypical environment that supports adaptive behaviours such as the ability to send receive and understand social messages
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