A study led by NTU Singapore researchers has revealed how the physical presence of spouses who are co-parenting can alter each other’s brain activity.
The researchers analysed the brain activity of 24 pairs of husband and wife from Singapore and found that when spouses were physically together, they showed higher similarities in brain responses to the stimuli than when they were separated. This effect was only found in true couples and not in randomly matched study participants.
The area of the brain the researchers monitored is the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with complex behaviour and emotional states. When similar brain activity in the same area of the brain (i.e. greater synchrony) is observed in two people, it suggests that both are highly attuned to each other’s emotions and behaviours.
The senior author of the study, NTU Associate Professor Gianluca Esposito, who holds a joint appointment in the School of Social Sciences and the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, said, “Since the brain response of parents may be shaped by the presence of the spouse, then it is likely that spouses who do not spend much time together while attending their children may find it harder to understand each other’s viewpoint and have reduced ability to coordinate co-parenting responsibilities. This may undermine the quality of parental care in the long run.”