The Neuroscience of Calming a Baby

The Neuroscience of Calming a Baby

New study explains why babies calm down when they are carried.

Every parent and caregiver knows from first hand experience that babies calm down when they are picked up, gently rocked, and carried around the room. New research published in the journal Current Biology on April 18, 2013 shows that this is a universal phenomenon. Infants experience an automatic calming reaction when they are being carried, whether they are mouse pups or human babies.


Dr. Amy Fuller‘s insight:

According to this study, when a baby is held a calming response is experienced in the parasympatheic nervous system and a part of the brain called the cerebellum. The cerebellum sits at the very back and bottom of our brains and manages things like breathing, heart rate, balance and movement.

  • Although the cerebellum is only 10% of brain volume it holds over 50% of your brain’s neurons. Neuroscientists are perplexed by everything that the cerebellum does. This study offers one more valuable clue. 
  • Scientists have known for years that the cerebellum is directly linked to a feedback loop with the vagus nerve which keeps heart rate slow and gives you grace under pressure. As adults, we can calm ourselves by practicing mindfulness and Loving-Kindness Meditation which puts the cerebellum at peace and creates a parasympathetic response of well being. This appears to be the same response that occurs in infants when they are being carried. 
I would like to know what happens in the adult brain when a baby is held and calmed…most likely the same thing.

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