Specific maternal brain responses to their own child's face: An fMRI meta-analysis

Paola Rigo, Pilyoung Kim, Gianluca Esposito, Diane L. Putnick, Paola Venuti, Marc H. Bornstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


How special is her own child to a mother? Research that has focused on mothers’ brain responses to their own child has revealed the involvement of multiple subcortical and cortical brain regions, but less is known about which brain regions are systematically activated across these studies. This meta-analysis aims to identify specific neural regions associated with “own child” compared to “other child”. To ensure the consistency of the types of child stimuli across studies, the analysis focused on studies using neutral to positive visual stimuli of own and other children. Viewing their own child is associated with enhanced cerebral activation in cortical and subcortical regions including the midbrain, amygdala, striatum, ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, and insula. These regions are involved in reward and maternal motivation and promoting approach behavior as well as caregiving. Interestingly, own child faces activate regions in the left hemisphere more than in the right hemisphere in mothers. The current results may support the better understanding of deviation from expected maternal brain responses to own child, which could further inform neurological markers for innovative parental screening and intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-69
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Review
StatePublished - Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Inc.


  • Infant face
  • Left hemisphere
  • Maternal brain
  • Meta-analysis
  • Own child
  • fMRI


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