Parental and romantic attachment shape brain processing of infant cues

Department of Psychology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel.
Biological psychology (Impact Factor: 3.4). 12/2011; 89(3):533-8. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2011.11.008
Source: PubMed


Periods of bond formation are associated with evolutionary-adaptive reorganization of physiological and behavioral responses and increased attention to attachment-related cues. We measured event-related potential responses to infant stimuli among new parents, new lovers, and romantically unattached singles (N=65). For parents, infant stimuli included own and unfamiliar infant. Viewing unfamiliar infants, parents and lovers exhibited greater activation at 140-160 and 300-500 ms post-stimulus compared to singles at occipital-lateral (N170) and central-frontal (P3a) sites, indicating greater initial attention to infant cues. Parents exhibited lowest amplitudes in the parietal-distributed P300 component, implicated in controlled attention, towards the unfamiliar infant but greatest response to their own infant in the same waveform. These findings are the first to demonstrate that periods of bond formation activate brain reactivity to parenting-related cues. Parents' heightened response to own infant accords with evolutionary models underscoring the need to direct resources to the survival and well being of one's own offspring.

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    • "Amplitudes of all ERP components of interests were statistically analyzed within both electrode clusters in order to assess topographic differences. Although the LPP would have been potentially interesting due to its sensitivity to emotional face processing (Vico et al., 2010; Weisman et al., 2012), visual inspection of the ERPs revealed that familiarity effects disappeared in time intervals longer than 400 ms after picture onset. We therefore did not analyze ERPs in the LPP time window. "
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    • "t al . , 2007 ; Glocker et al . , 2009b ; Caria et al . , 2012 ) . An evoked - related potential ( ERP ) study has also reported stronger activation in response to neutral expression faces of unfamiliar infants at central – frontal ( P3a ) and occipital – lateral ( N170 ) sites providing further support for increased attention toward infant cues ( Weisman et al . , 2012c ) . There is also evidence that infant faces elicit strong activation in brain regions associated with core aspects of emotion processing ( see Lindquist et al . , 2012 ) including the anterior cingulate cortex ( ACC—BA 33 / 24 ) ( Glocker et al . , 2009b ) and medial cingulate cortex ( MCC—BA 31 / 23 / 24 ) ( Caria et al . , 2012 ) , i"
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    • "Parental status may modulate neural (Seifritz et al., 2003) and behavioral (Lehmann et al., 2013) responses to infants. ERP evidence demonstrates that neural responses to infant faces are smaller in nulliparous individuals than parous individuals (Proverbio et al., 2006; Weisman et al., 2012), and that nulliparous women may exhibit a more right-lateralized response, similar to that seen in men, to infant faces than parous women (Proverbio et al., 2006). Within parous individuals, responses appear to be stronger to stimuli depicting own-infant compared to unfamiliar infants. "
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