Parent-Child Intervention Decreases Stress and Increases Maternal Brain Activity and Connectivity in Response to Own Baby-Cry

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There is a growing understanding of the neural mechanisms of human maternal attachment. Human mothers’ neural responses to infants are associated with their behavioral sensitivity observed during interactions with infants. The current symposium aims to provide understanding of the core neural basis for mother-infant attachment, how prenatal and postnatal risk factors influence the maternal brain, and finally whether the negative changes in the maternal brain may be reversed by an intervention effort. The first paper presents converging evidence on neural, psychological and physiological responses to infants in new mothers across diverse cultural contexts. The paper highlights the common core neural processes of mother-infant attachment, which sets the foundation of understanding maternal brain’s successful and unsuccessful adaptation to parenthood. The second paper presents the role of prenatal risk factors, specifically prenatal maternal anxiety, in maternal brain adaptation to parenthood. This longitudinal study suggests that negative effects of maternal anxiety in mothers’ neural adaptation to parenthood may emerge during pregnancy. The third paper presents evidence that socioeconomic stress may also disrupt mothers’ neural adaptation to parenthood. Low family income is associated with dampened neural sensitivity to positive infant expressions and elevated neural sensitivity to negative infant expressions, which further influence disruptions in maternal behavioral responsiveness to own infants. The last presentation suggests that aberrant neural sensitivity to infants among distressed mothers may be improved via an intervention. Among depressed mothers, interventions to improve mental health reduced parental stress and strengthened neural functional connectivity in response to their infant.


Austin, TX

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