How listening together unveils parent-child brain signatures

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recent Scientific report The study determined the presence of shared neural fingerprints between parents and their children while listening to stories.

Study: Parent-child pairs exhibit shared neural fingerprints while listening to stories.  Image credit: Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock.comStudy: Parent-child pairs exhibit shared neural fingerprints when listening to stories. Image credit: Evgeny Atamanenko/


A parent or caregiver is the most important person for a child. Parent-child interactions play an important role in the child’s well-being, especially in the development of the child’s cognitive abilities.

Behavioral and neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that parent-child interactions help shape the child’s executive function system, including their limbic abilities.

In addition, parents’ emotional regulation determines the child’s emotional characteristics, which are linked to their nervous system.

An earlier neurobiological model for parent-child interaction suggests that a parent tunes the child’s brain activity toward performing higher-level cognitive and social processes.

Hyperscanning methods have been developed to better understand the neural determinants of parent-child interactions.

These methods help synchronize the brain activity of a parent-child pair during their interaction, enabling researchers to better understand shared neurobiological activity.

Hyperscanning data from parent-child pairs demonstrated more emotional adjustment; For example, comparable resting-state neuronal connectivity profiles were observed between them while watching an emotional movie.

In another study, scanner images showed a similar neuronal activity between mothers and adolescents, that is, when mothers watched their adolescents perform a difficult task.

In addition to the hyperscanning approach, the connectome-based prediction model (CPM) is another approach designed to understand group variability in brain-behavior relationships.

This method can reliably predict a child’s cognitive abilities. A limited number of studies have shown the efficacy of connectome fingerprinting (FC) methods in distinguishing individuals based on patterns of brain connectivity.

About the study

These studies hypothesize that biological parent-child couples exhibit similar and unique functional connectivity patterns, particularly those associated with emotional and executive function systems.

Therefore, brain connectivity profiles obtained in a story-listening task can be used to identify parent-child pairs.

A diffusion map (DM) framework, a non-linear dimension reduction technique, was used to establish meaningful functional connectivity similarities between parents and their children.

A total of thirteen Hebrew-speaking children, between the ages of 8 and 12, were recruited with one biological parent.

The mean age of the parents was 42.4 years. All recruited parent-child pairs were Caucasian and belonged to relatively affluent socioeconomic backgrounds.

None of the participants had a history of neurological or developmental disorders. They performed two separate computational neuroimaging scans with a maximum interval of one month between the two scans.

It must be noted that the participants were asked to listen to the story they heard during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In addition, behavioral assessments were also conducted in both sessions.

Study results

Functional MRI data indicate the presence of shared neural determinants between biological parent-child dyads.

Importantly, similar intra-brain connectivity profiles were recorded during story listening that could be used to identify biological parent-child pairs.

Consistent with previous research findings, the current study found increased brain-to-brain synchronization among individuals with similar characteristics.

This study also reflects the existence of similar brain activations during story listening among socially connected individuals. The greatest number of parent-child FC matches was observed within the DMN-frontoparietal (FP) node.

Previous studies have shown that the gestalt cortex is associated with the creation of subjective perspectives. Brain similarities in FC may be due to shared perceptions that are evident through story interpretation.

In a positive neural fingerprint, higher involvement of the salience-memory and cerebellum-cerebellum nodes was observed. This finding suggests that biological parents and children use similar cognitive and emotional brain networks that support cognitive monitoring and processing when listening to stories.

This study postulates that, during auditory comprehension, the parent’s cerebellum plays an important role in tuning the child’s language processing.

Additionally, similar neuronal engagement occurs in parent-child pairs when retrieving information from memory to support story comprehension.

This study used two cognitive-based integrative (CBI) sub-models, which indicate that biological parent-child couples share FC similarities and differences.

These can be used as fMRI-based neural fingerprints. Future studies must focus on the extent to which genetic and environmental factors influence connectivity similarity.


The present study highlighted the presence of distinct functional relationships associated with both cognitive and emotional networks, which are shared between biological parent-child pairs during story listening.

This documented supporting evidence that neural fingerprinting should be used to identify biological parent-child relationships.

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