Perceived quality of maternal care in childhood and structure and function of mothers' brain

Pilyoung Kim, James F. Leckman, Linda C. Mayes, Michal Ann Newman, Ruth Feldman, James E. Swain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations

Abstract

Animal studies indicate that early maternal care has long-term effects on brain areas related to social attachment and parenting, whereas neglectful mothering is linked with heightened stress reactivity in the hippocampus across the lifespan. The present study explores the possibility, using magnetic resonance imaging, that perceived quality of maternal care in childhood is associated with brain structure and functional responses to salient infant stimuli among human mothers in the first postpartum month. Mothers who reported higher maternal care in childhood showed larger grey matter volumes in the superior and middle frontal gyri, orbital gyrus, superior temporal gyrus and fusiform gyrus. In response to infant cries, these mothers exhibited higher activations in the middle frontal gyrus, superior temporal gyrus and fusiform gyrus, whereas mothers reporting lower maternal care showed increased hippocampal activations. These findings suggest that maternal care in childhood may be associated with anatomy and functions in brain regions implicated in appropriate responsivity to infant stimuli in human mothers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-673
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Science
Volume13
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2010

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