Parents: It may be time to put down the smartphone and pick up your newborn. A new study has found distracted parenting may have negative effects on offspring's neurological development. Although the study was conducted on baby mice, and not actual humans, researchers urge parents not to ignore findings. In fact, decades of research has found nothing good can come from ignoring kids.

For the study, now published in the online journal Translational Psychiatry, researchers from the University of California, Irvine, raised two sets of rat pups in the same setting save for one difference: one set was raised in an environment devoid of enough materials mothers needed to build a proper nest. As a result, this set of pups received less attention from their mother, as she needed to dedicate a larger amount of her time to procuring nest materials.

The team then compared the development of the two sets of mice, soon realizing that despite being raised in an environment with sufficient food, water, and the proper temperature, the mice with distracted mothers were deficient in terms of emotional development. According to Time, these rats consistently ate less sugar solution and spent less time playing with other rats, suggesting that something as simple as attention during infancy could have lasting effects on the animal's ability to feel pleasure sensations.

"What we are proposing is that there is a sensitive period in which maternal care needs to provide consistent patterns and sequences of behavior so the baby's brain can perceive them to develop normally emotionally," Dr. Tallie Baram, a researcher involved in the study explained, as reported by Time.

Now, this study is not without its limitations; first and foremost being it was conducted on baby rats. Recent studies have suggested using mice subjects to research human conditions is a waste of resources due to misleading results. However, that's not to say UCI researchers aren’t on to something. Past studies have shown just how far parental nurturing can go for early child development.

Children who were extremely neglected often have significantly smaller brain sizes. In addition, a study conducted last year showed child negligence can physically change the way a child's brain develops, lessening the volume of gray and white matter in the cortex of the brain. White matter is often referred to as the "superhighway of the brain," seeing as it plays a large role in connecting different sections of the brain and actively affects learning and mental illness. According to BioMed Central, conditions such as autism have been linked to white matter abnormalities.

Another study suggested that neglected children may be more apt to develop "indiscriminate friendliness," a dangerous behavior characterized by being inappropriately friendly with strangers.

Baram doesn't think it's too much of a jump to take their rat findings and apply them to human parenting. But to strengthen this hypothesis, Baram and her colleagues will have to work with human subjects. They plan to analyze human brain images to determine whether differences in the consistency and patterns of mother's behavior affect their children.

Source: Baram TZ, Molet J, Heins K, et al. Fragmentation and high entropy of neonatal experience predict adolescent emotional outcome. Translational Psychiatry. 2016.