Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Crying baby draws blunted response in depressed mom's brain

23.02.2011
FMRI at the University of Oregon provides a window to see differences in brain responses

Mothers who are depressed respond differently to their crying babies than do non-depressed moms. In fact, their reaction, according to brain scans at the University of Oregon, is much more muted than the robust brain activity in non-depressed moms.

An infant crying is normal, but how mothers respond can affect a child's development, says Jennifer C. Ablow, professor of psychology. For years, Ablow has studied the relationship of behavior and physiological responses such as heart rate and respiration of mothers, both depressed and not, when they respond to their infants' crying.

A new study -- online in advance of publication in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience -- provides the first look at brain activity of depressed women responding to recordings of crying infants, either their own or someone else's. The brains of 22 women were scrutinized using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Non-invasive fMRI, when focused on the brain, measures blood flow changes using a magnetic field and radio frequency pulses, producing detailed images that provide scientists with information about brain activity or help medical staff diagnose disease.

Researchers considered both group differences between women with chronic histories of depression and those with no clinical diagnoses, and more subtle variations in the women's brain activity related to current levels of depressive symptoms. All were first time mothers whose babies were 18 months old.

"It looks as though depressed mothers are not responding in a more negative way than non-depressed mothers, which has been one hypothesis," said Heidemarie K. Laurent, assistant professor at the University of Wyoming, who led the study as a postdoctoral researcher in Ablow's lab. "What we saw was really more of a lack of responding in a positive way."

As a group, brain responses in non-depressed mothers responding to the sound of their own babies' cries were seen on both sides of the brain's lateral paralimbic areas and core limbic sub-cortical regions including the striatum, thalamus and midbrain; depressed mothers showed no unique response to their babies. Non-depressed mothers activated much more strongly than depressed mothers in a subcortical cluster involving the striatum -- specifically the caudate and nucleus accumbens -- and the medial thalamus. These areas are closely associated with the processing of rewards and motivation.

"In this context it was interesting to see that the non-depressed mothers were able to respond to this cry sound as a positive cue," Laurent said. "Their response was consistent with wanting to approach their infants. Depressed mothers were really lacking in that response. "

In a separate comparison, mothers who self-reported that they were more depressed at the time of their fMRI sessions displayed diminished prefrontal brain activity, particularly in the anterior cingulate cortex, when hearing their own baby's cries. This brain region, Laurent said, is associated with the abilities to evaluate information and to plan and regulate a response to emotional cues.

The important message of the study, Ablow and Laurent said, is that depression can exert long-lasting effects on mother-infant relationships by blunting the mother's response to her infant's emotional cues.

"A mother who is able to process and act upon relevant information will have more sensitive interactions with her infant, which, in turn, will allow the infant to develop its own regulation capacities," Ablow said. "Some mothers are unable to respond optimally to their infant's emotional cues. A mother's emotional response requires a coordination of multiple cortical and sub-cortical systems of the brain. How that plays out has not been well known."

The findings may suggest new implications for treating depression symptoms in mothers, Laurent said. "Some of these prefrontal problems may be changed more easily by addressing current symptoms, but there may be deeper, longer-lasting deficits at the motivational levels of the brain that will take more time to overcome," she said.

We regard the findings as a "jumping-off point" to better understand the neurobiology of the mothering brain, said Ablow, co-director of the UO's Developmental Sociobiology Lab. "In our next study, we plan to follow women from the prenatal period through their first-year of motherhood to get a fuller picture of how these brain responses shape mother-infant relationships during a critical period of their babies' development."

The National Science Foundation, through a grant to Ablow, and a National Institute of Mental Health postdoctoral fellowship to Laurent, funded the research. The project also received a pilot grant from the UO Brain Biology Machine Initiative through the Lewis Center for Neuroimaging.

About the University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is among 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities as providing "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.

Sources: Jennifer C. Ablow, associate professor of psychology, jcablow@uoregon.edu (Ablow currently is on sabbatical in France and accessible by email); Heidemarie K. Laurent, assistant professor of psychology, University of Wyoming, 307-766-3442, hlaurent@uwyo.edu.

Links:
Ablow faculty page: http://psychweb.uoregon.edu/people/ablow-jennifer
Developmental Sociobiology Lab: http://pages.uoregon.edu/dslab/DSL_Home.html
Laurent faculty page: http://www.uwyo.edu/PSYCHOLOGY/faculty/Laurent,%20H.%20.html

Lewis Center for Neuroimaging: http://lcni.uoregon.edu/

Jim Barlow | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uoregon.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung

nachricht Scientists reveal source of human heartbeat in 3-D
07.08.2017 | University of Manchester

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Chronic stress induces fatal organ dysfunctions via a new neural circuit

21.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Scientists from the MSU studied new liquid-crystalline photochrom

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>