Reported maternal childhood maltreatment experiences, amygdala activation and functional connectivity to infant cry

Aviva K. Olsavsky, Joel Stoddard, Andrew Erhart, Rebekah Tribble, Pilyoung Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Maternal childhood maltreatment experiences (CMEs) may influence responses to infants and affect child outcomes. We examined associations between CME and mothers' neural responses and functional connectivity to infant distress. We hypothesized that mothers with greater CME would exhibit higher amygdala reactivity and amygdala-supplementary motor area (SMA) functional connectivity to own infant's cries. Postpartum mothers (N = 57) assessed for CME completed an functional magnetic resonance imaging task with cry and white-noise stimuli. Amygdala region-of-interest and psychophysiological interaction analyses were performed. Our models tested associations of CME with activation and connectivity during task conditions (own/other and cry/noise). Exploratory analyses with parenting behaviors were performed. Mothers with higher CME exhibited higher amygdala activation to own baby's cries vs other stimuli (F1,392 = 6.9, P < 0.01, N = 57) and higher differential connectivity to cry vs noise between amygdala and SMA (F1,165 = 22.3, P < 0.001). Exploratory analyses revealed positive associations between both amygdala activation and connectivity and maternal non-intrusiveness (Ps < 0.05). Increased amygdala activation to own infant's cry and higher amygdala-SMA functional connectivity suggest motor responses to baby's distress. These findings were associated with less intrusive maternal behaviors. Follow-up studies might replicate these findings, add more granular parenting assessments and explore how cue processing leads to a motivated maternal approach in clinical populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)418-427
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • amygdala
  • infant mental health
  • maltreatment
  • mother-child relationships
  • neuroimaging


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