Associative and sensorimotor learning for parenting involves mirror neurons under the influence of oxytocin
ABSTRACT Mirror neuron-based associative learning may be understood according to associative learning theories, in addition to sensorimotor learning theories. This is important for a comprehensive understanding of the role of mirror neurons and related hormone modulators, such as oxytocin, in complex social interactions such as among parent-infant dyads and in examples of mirror neuron function that involve abnormal motor systems such as depression.
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ABSTRACT: Research on the neurobiology of parenting has defined biobehavioral synchrony, the coordination of biological and behavioral responses between parent and child, as a central process underpinning mammalian bond formation. Bi-parental rearing, typically observed in monogamous species, is similarly thought to draw on mechanisms of mother-father synchrony. We examined synchrony in mothers' and fathers' brain response to ecologically valid infant cues. Thirty mothers and fathers, comprising 15 couples parenting 4- to 6-month-old infants, were visited at home, and infant play was videotaped. Parents then underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning while observing own-infant compared with standard-infant videos. Coordination in brain response between mothers and fathers was assessed using a voxel-by-voxel algorithm, and gender-specific activations were also tested. Plasma oxytocin and arginine vasopressin, neuropeptides implicated in female and male bonding, were examined as correlates. Online coordination in maternal and paternal brain activations emerged in social-cognitive networks implicated in empathy and social cognition. Mothers showed higher amygdala activations and correlations between amygdala response and oxytocin. Fathers showed greater activations in social-cognitive circuits, which correlated with vasopressin. Parents coordinate online activity in social-cognitive networks that support intuitive understanding of infant signals and planning of adequate caregiving, whereas motivational-limbic activations may be gender specific. Although preliminary, these findings demonstrate synchrony in the brain response of two individuals within an attachment relationship, and may suggest that human attachment develops within the matrix of biological attunement and brain-to-brain synchrony between attachment partners.Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 08/2012; 51(8):798-811. DOI:10.1016/j.jaac.2012.06.008 · 6.35 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Decision making (DM) in the context of others often entails complex cognition-emotion interaction. While the literature suggests that the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), striatum, and amygdala are involved in valuation-based DM and hippocampus in context processing, how these neural mechanisms subserve the integration of cognitive and emotional values in a social context remains unclear. In this study we addressed this gap by systematically manipulating cognition-emotion interaction in a social DM context, when the participants played a card game with a hypothetical opponent in a behavioral study (n=73) and a functional magnetic-resonance-imaging study (n=16). We observed that payoff-based behavioral choices were influenced by emotional values carried by face pictures and identified neurocircuits involved in cognitive valuation, emotional valuation, and concurrent cognition-emotion value integration. Specifically, while the vmPFC, amygdala, and ventral striatum were all involved in both cognitive and emotional domains of valuation, these regions played dissociable roles in social DM. The payoff-dependent responses in vmPFC and amygdala, but not ventral striatum, were moderated by the social context. Furthermore, the vmPFC, but not amygdala, not only encoded the opponent's gains as if self's losses, but also represented a "final common currency" during valuation-based decisions. The extent to which emotional input influenced choices was associated with the functional connectivity between the value-signaling amygdala and value integrating vmPFC, and also with the functional connectivity between the context-setting hippocampus and value-signaling amygdala and ventral striatum. These results identify brain pathways through which emotion shapes subjective values in a social DM context.NeuroImage 07/2012; 63(2):843-57. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.07.017 · 6.13 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Interpersonal relationships constitute the foundation on which human society is based. The infant-caregiver bond is the earliest and most influential of these relationships. Driven by evolutionary pressure for survival, parents feel compelled to provide care to their biological offspring. However, compassion for non-kin is also ubiquitous in human societies, motivating individuals to suppress their own self-interests to promote the well-being of non-kin members of the society. We argue that the process of early kinship-selective parental care provides the foundation for non-exclusive altruism via the activation of a general Caregiving System that regulates compassion in any of its forms. We propose a tripartite structure of this system that includes (1) the perception of need in another, (2) a caring motivational or feeling state, and (3) the delivery of a helping response to the individual in need. Findings from human and animal research point to specific neurobiological mechanisms including activation of the insula and the secretion of oxytocin that support the adaptive functioning of this Caregiving System.Parenting 04/2012; 12(2-3):115-123. DOI:10.1080/15295192.2012.680409 · 1.13 Impact Factor