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romance-connected-babyFalling in love — the arena of poets and songwriters.

And also, it turns out, the arena of scientists!

Research on attachment is increasingly making clear that experiences during our early childhoods leaves lasting consequences.

One of those outcomes is the way in which we experienced love in adulthood.

To maintain a reasonably happy relationship, we need to be able to manage emotional closeness as well as distance. We need to be able to separate and also reunite.

When two people part in the morning, they need to be able to disconnect, and at the end of the day, to reconnect so that they continue to feel special in each other’s lives.

Some couples can manage connection and disconnection more easily than others. If you’ve been confused about some of your partner’s behaviour, seeing it as related to attachment gives you a new handle as to what might be happening.

For more insights into romance, see our longer article on the science of connection.

Our book on attachment also explores romantic love.


sabre-tooth-tigers-bears-connected baby

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strollers-connected-babyIt is fascinating to think about the history of baby transport.

For hundreds of thousand of years, the human species carried their babies in their arms — because there was no other choice.

Babies could hear that person’s heartbeat, feel their body warmth, adjust their posture to the stride of walking.

That’s not the way we tend to carry babies today, of course.

We have devised technological solutions to that problem. We carry our babies in prams, buggies, strollers, pushchairs, travel systems. Whatever we call these technological devices, their function is to help us get our babies from Point A to Point B.

We need them in a world of cars and cities and long distances to be travelled. Interestingly, we don’t normally think of prams as shaping babies’ brains or physiology.

But when we begin to understand what the science of connection is telling us, we begin to realise that has to be one outcome of prams. The science says that every experience a baby has builds neural connections.

This means, then, that the regularity of stroller rides will undoubtedly be shaping brain development — especially if stroller design interferes in any way with a baby’s confidence in their sense of connection to the person pushing.

So it begins to seem that the direction a buggy faces — away or toward the pusher — could really matter, especially for very young babies.

This is an example of one of the many considerations that arises for parents, childcare professionals, and stroller manufacturers alike, when we bring the science of connection to baby transport.

For more insights into strollers and other transport devices, see the work of some of our product specialists or our longer article on the science of connection.

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babies-connected-babyBabies arrive already connected to other people.

They arrive in the world as persons, already interested in other people’s facial expressions, rhythms and movements. They are able to communicate.

They have brains that automatically read meaning in the actions of other people.

Babies arrive already connected to other people. They arrive in the world as persons, already interested in other people’s facial expressions, rhythms and movements. They are able to communicate.

They have brains that automatically read meaning in the actions of other people. These are some of the insights that we are gaining from sciences like developmental psychology and neuroscience.

We are learning that babies are born as engaged, relational beings.

They don’t develop social skills later on, such as when they begin to talk or become preschoolers. Their social skills are present from birth.

The way that those skills develop will depend on how other people engage with them, and those experiences will shape the neural pathways in their brain.

This is not the vision that we have always held of babies. It wasn’t very long ago that science thought babies’ mental and emotional worlds were a bit of a blur or that babies were rather socially isolated and inward-focused.

Now we know different. connected baby was established to help all of us to think more deeply about the implications of this scientific discovery.

For more insights into rhythm and connection, see our connected baby guides or our longer article on the science of connection.

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autism-connected-babyAutism is commonly understood as a condition that causes a person to withdraw from and avoid social interaction.

What if that isn’t true?

There is a growing amount of scientific evidence that shows that traditional definitions of autism need to be revised.

Even people with severe autism want to connect, if we can connect with them in a way that feels safe and predictable.

When brains can predict, and even control, the rhythm of an interaction with another person, then that interaction feels safe. The pattern is recognisable and familiar. This explanation is the basis for interventions like Intensive Interaction, which have been used to connect with people who cope with very severe autism.

The effectiveness of this approach leads us to ask new questions about what exactly autism is and how might it be affect a person’s ability to display the inescapable capacity for connection with which they were born?

These are important questions to ask, because autism rates are quickly rising throughout the world. We need to better understand it if we are to provide the best care and support for people with autism.

For more insights into dementia and connection, see our connected baby guides.

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rhythm-connected-babyIf brains come into the world already connected, what exactly are they detecting that allows them to connect with another person?

One answer is rhythm. Human brains develop by working out patterns.

When we can work out a pattern by which the world around us is functioning, then the world becomes predictable.

Predictability makes us feel safe. So human brains are highly attuned to detecting patterns, or more specifically the rhythms by which events function.

For example, they detect patterns in when they are likely to get responses from someone else, in how fast that happens, and in the emotional state of the person responding. That rhythmic pattern becomes the ‘beat’ of a relationship.

We learn whether it is safe to vary that beat, say by teasing another person, or whether it is not safe to do that, by being fearfully obedient.

It is fascinating to realise that babies experience such social exchanges rhythmically. So the analogy of a dance or a duet makes sense: our interactions with the world are musical.

We can add this insight to the fact that, for the first nine months of development, a human fetes experience a very real rhythm: the cadence of the mother’s beating heart.

Brain development is infused by rhythm, and brains are driven to look for meaning in the rhythms they discover in the world.

This is one explanation of why music and dance are such powerful art forms for human beings.

For more insights into rhythm and connection, see our connected baby guides.

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brains-connected-babyOne of the most important insights that has been learned from neuroscience over the past two decades is that neural development is shaped by relationships.

Human brains are not complete at birth. They are designed to develop after birth.

This is the result of our evolutionary history. Brains do not unfold according to a genetic pattern. They are literally shaped by what happens to a person.

Experiences during the earliest years of life — conception to three years old — are especially important, because this is when brains are developing most rapidly.

This is when brains are laying down neural pathways that will help a person to handle emotions throughout life.

If you cannot handle strong emotions, the official term for which is ‘self-regulate’, then you are likely to engage in impulsive behaviour that can lead to problems in relationships or holding a job, along with all the other elements of having a happy life.

Understanding more about brain development also helps in the treatment of trauma, in creating policies for professions such as social work, midwifery and criminal justice, and certainly relates to the funding decisions that politicians make.

In short, our growing neuroscientific insights hold major implications for a whole range of societal concerns.

For more insights into brain development, see our electronic courses.

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dementia-connected-babyIt is common to believe that dementia can progress so far that it makes it almost impossible to ‘find’ the person inside.

It can seem as if they have disappeared entirely into their illness. Science is now helping us to understand that is not true.

Human beings are communicative, right from birth, and they remain so until the very end of life.

Our communicative nature is perhaps the characteristic most central to our humanity. This insight provides a basis for thinking deeply about how different periods of life — even those as ‘far apart’ as infancy and the elder years — are intertwined.

Indeed, science is now beginning to map common symptoms of dementia onto the attachment styles developed in childhood.

Understanding the physiology of connection is core to the functioning of human brains and bodies gives us a whole new way to approach the care and treatment of people with dementia.

Dr Maggie Ellis filmed by STV News November 2014.

Experts Make Dementia Communication Breakthrough – a simple approach to communicating with people with dementia is helping families retain an emotional bond with their loved ones.

View the full lecture on You Tube  (will open in a new window)
“How dementia helps us understand our common humanity” by Dr Maggie Ellis

For more insights into dementia and connection, see our connected baby guides.

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attachment-connected-babyEvery time you start your day, you draw on the emotional attachment processes your brain built as a baby.

Perhaps you wish your partner a good day at work, give the dog one last fond pat, confidently place your youngest child in the arms of her childminder, worry whether your older child is going to patch things up with his mates at school, and turn your mind nervously to the meeting you will shortly be having with your manager.

All of these experiences travel personalised neural circuits, not in place when you were born which which you had laid down largely by the time you were one year of age.

It is astounding to realise how much of our adult lives are influenced by experiences we had before we could walk, talk, or consciously remember.

For more insights into attachment and connection, see our connected baby guides and films.

Go back to The science page.