The missing link: Mothers' neural response to infant cry related to infant attachment behaviors

Heidemarie K. Laurent, Jennifer C. Ablow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study addresses a gap in the attachment literature by investigating maternal neural response to cry related to infant attachment classifications and behaviors. Twenty-two primiparous mothers and their 18-month old infants completed the Strange Situation (SS) procedure to elicit attachment behaviors. During a separate functional MRI session, mothers were exposed to their own infant's cry sound, as well as an unfamiliar infant's cry and control sound. Maternal neural response to own infant cry related to both overall attachment security and specific infant behaviors. Mothers of less secure infants maintained greater activation to their cry in left parahippocampal and amygdala regions and the right posterior insula consistent with a negative schematic response bias. Mothers of infants exhibiting more avoidant or contact maintaining behaviors during the SS showed diminished response across left prefrontal, parietal, and cerebellar areas involved in attentional processing and cognitive control. Mothers of infants exhibiting more disorganized behavior showed reduced response in bilateral temporal and subcallosal areas relevant to social cognition and emotion regulation. No differences by attachment classification were found. Implications for attachment transmission models are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)761-772
Number of pages12
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Volume35
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Attachment
  • Cry
  • FMRI
  • Infant
  • Mother

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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