Maternal Perinatal Anxiety and Neural Responding to Infant Affective Signals: Insights, Challenges, and a Road Map for Neuroimaging Research.
Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews
Anxiety symptoms are common among women during pregnancy and the postpartum period, potentially having detrimental effects on both mother and child's well-being. Perinatal maternal anxiety interferes with a core facet of adaptive caregiving: mothers' sensitive responsiveness to infant affective communicative 'cues.' This review summarizes the current research on the neural correlates of maternal processing of infant cues in the presence of perinatal anxiety, outlines its limitations, and offers next steps to advance future research. Functional neuroimaging studies examining the neural circuitry involved in, and electrophysiological studies examining the temporal dynamics of, processing infant cues during pregnancy and postpartum are reviewed. Studies have generally indicated mixed findings, although emerging themes suggest that anxiety may be implicated in several stages of processing infant cues- detection, interpretation, and reaction- contingent upon cue valence. Limitations include inconsistent designs, lack of differentiation between anxiety and depression symptoms, and limited consideration of parenting-specific (versus domain-general) anxiety. Future studies should incorporate longitudinal investigation of multiple levels of analysis spanning neural, cognitive, and observed aspects of sensitive caregiving.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2021.09.043
View details for PubMedID 34563563
Imagining the baby: Neural reactivity to infant distress and mind-mindedness in expectant parents
2021; 161: 108057
Neural and psychological processes in pregnancy may be important antecedents for caregiving postpartum. Employing event-related potentials, we examined neural reactivity to infant emotional faces during the third trimester of pregnancy in expectant mothers (n = 38) and expectant fathers (n = 30). Specifically, expectant parents viewed infant distress and infant neutral faces while electroencephalography was simultaneously recorded. As a psychological measure, we assessed prenatal mind-mindedness towards the unborn child and examined whether neural processing of infant cues was associated with levels of mind-mindedness. Expectant fathers evidenced greater P300 reactivity to infant distress, relative to neutral, faces than expectant mothers. Furthermore, P300 reactivity to infant distress, relative to infant neutral, faces was associated with levels of prenatal mind-mindedness in expectant fathers but not expectant mothers. These findings indicate significant sex differences in the prenatal neural processing of infant cues and relations between neural reactivity to infant distress and the emergence of parental mind-mindedness.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2021.108057
View details for Web of Science ID 000647843000007
View details for PubMedID 33640474
Prior reproductive experience modulates neural responses to infant faces across the postpartum period
2020; 15 (6): 650-654
Infant-cue processing facilitates sensitive maternal care, which is necessary in the formation of healthy mother-infant attachment. Mothers may be particularly focused on cue processing early postpartum, contributing to intense preoccupation with their infant's well-being. Prior reproductive experience, or parity, may also impact the intensity of infant-cue processing and has been found to influence P300 neural responses to infant faces during pregnancy and at 2 months postpartum. However, we do not know whether this parity effect persists. Thus, we examined the P300 to infant faces in 59 mothers at 2 and 7 months postpartum. Our main finding was that primiparous, as compared to multiparous, women showed a significantly higher P300 to infant faces across the postpartum period. Findings further emphasize the importance of studying parity and its impact on the neural processing of infant faces.
View details for DOI 10.1080/17470919.2020.1847729
View details for Web of Science ID 000591472700001
View details for PubMedID 33155504
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7771045
Facial recognition during early motherhood: Investigating the persistence of age and affect biases
2020; 210: 103136
Converging evidence demonstrates increased levels of sensitivity to infant faces in mothers. This may be reflective of a series of psychological and neurobiological changes that occur in the transition to, and during early, parenthood for the purpose of appropriate caregiving; however, this enhanced infant facial recognition is in contrast with the general adult literature regarding facial processing. In the current study, we aimed to replicate a prior study of emotion facial recognition in pregnant women in a sample of mothers with children under a year old, utilizing a paradigm in which adult and infant faces gradually changed from neutral expressions to either happy or sad expressions. Mothers were faster at the recognition of adult faces in comparison to infant faces, and were also faster at happy faces in comparison to sad faces. Results are discussed in context of the current processing literature regarding the perinatal period, and implications for the persistence of the own-age bias and happy face advantage are considered.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.actpsy.2020.103136
View details for Web of Science ID 000598077500015
View details for PubMedID 32768610