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).
"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.
"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, email@example.com (Ablow currently is on sabbatical in France and accessible by email); Heidemarie K. Laurent, assistant professor of psychology, University of Wyoming, 307-766-3442, firstname.lastname@example.org.Links:
Lewis Center for Neuroimaging: http://lcni.uoregon.edu/
Jim Barlow | EurekAlert!
Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
26.10.2016 | Awards Funding
26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering