Neuroendocrinology of parental response to baby-cry

J. E. Swain, P. Kim, S. S. Ho

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


This overview attempts to synthesise current understandings of the neuroendocrine basis of parenting. The parent-infant bond is central to the human condition, contributes to risks for mood and anxiety disorders, and provides the potential for resiliency and protection against the development of psychopathology. Animal models of parenting provide compelling evidence that biological mechanisms may be studied in humans. This has led to brain imaging and endocrine system studies of human parents using baby stimuli and concerted psychological and behavioural measures. Certain brain circuits and related hormonal systems, including subcortical regions for motivation (striatum, amygdala, hypothalamus and hippocampus) and cortical regions for social cognition (anterior cingulate, insula, medial frontal and orbitofrontal cortices), appear to be involved. These brain circuits work with a range of endocrine systems to manage stress and motivate appropriate parental caring behaviour with a flexibility appropriate to the environment. Work in this field promises to link evolving models of parental brain performance with resilience, risk and treatment toward mother-infant mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1036-1041
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Attachment
  • Brain imaging
  • Caregiving
  • Cortisol
  • Dopamine
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Opioids
  • Parent-child relationships
  • Parenting


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