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Find video protocols related to scientific articles indexed in Pubmed.
Mothering, fathering, and the regulation of negative and positive emotions in high-functioning preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder.
J Child Psychol Psychiatry
PUBLISHED: 08-14-2014
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Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit difficulties in regulating emotions and authors have called to study the specific processes underpinning emotion regulation (ER) in ASD. Yet, little observational research examined the strategies preschoolers with ASD use to regulate negative and positive emotions in the presence of their mothers and fathers.
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Neural plasticity in fathers of human infants.
Soc Neurosci
PUBLISHED: 06-24-2014
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Fathering plays an important role in infants' socioemotional and cognitive development. Previous studies have identified brain regions that are important for parenting behavior in human mothers. However, the neural basis of parenting in human fathers is largely unexplored. In the current longitudinal study, we investigated structural changes in fathers' brains during the first 4 months postpartum using voxel-based morphometry analysis. Biological fathers (n = 16) with full-term, healthy infants were scanned at 2-4 weeks postpartum (time 1) and at 12-16 weeks postpartum (time 2). Fathers exhibited increase in gray matter (GM) volume in several neural regions involved in parental motivation, including the hypothalamus, amygdala, striatum, and lateral prefrontal cortex. On the other hand, fathers exhibited decreases in GM volume in the orbitofrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and insula. The findings provide evidence for neural plasticity in fathers' brains. We also discuss the distinct patterns of associations among neural changes, postpartum mood symptoms, and parenting behaviors among fathers.
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Father's brain is sensitive to childcare experiences.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PUBLISHED: 05-27-2014
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Although contemporary socio-cultural changes dramatically increased fathers' involvement in childrearing, little is known about the brain basis of human fatherhood, its comparability with the maternal brain, and its sensitivity to caregiving experiences. We measured parental brain response to infant stimuli using functional MRI, oxytocin, and parenting behavior in three groups of parents (n = 89) raising their firstborn infant: heterosexual primary-caregiving mothers (PC-Mothers), heterosexual secondary-caregiving fathers (SC-Fathers), and primary-caregiving homosexual fathers (PC-Fathers) rearing infants without maternal involvement. Results revealed that parenting implemented a global "parental caregiving" neural network, mainly consistent across parents, which integrated functioning of two systems: the emotional processing network including subcortical and paralimbic structures associated with vigilance, salience, reward, and motivation, and mentalizing network involving frontopolar-medial-prefrontal and temporo-parietal circuits implicated in social understanding and cognitive empathy. These networks work in concert to imbue infant care with emotional salience, attune with the infant state, and plan adequate parenting. PC-Mothers showed greater activation in emotion processing structures, correlated with oxytocin and parent-infant synchrony, whereas SC-Fathers displayed greater activation in cortical circuits, associated with oxytocin and parenting. PC-Fathers exhibited high amygdala activation similar to PC-Mothers, alongside high activation of superior temporal sulcus (STS) comparable to SC-Fathers, and functional connectivity between amygdala and STS. Among all fathers, time spent in direct childcare was linked with the degree of amygdala-STS connectivity. Findings underscore the common neural basis of maternal and paternal care, chart brain-hormone-behavior pathways that support parenthood, and specify mechanisms of brain malleability with caregiving experiences in human fathers.
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Parent-child interaction and oxytocin production in pre-schoolers with autism spectrum disorder.
Br J Psychiatry
PUBLISHED: 05-22-2014
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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is associated with genetic risk on the oxytocin system, suggesting oxytocin involvement in ASD; yet oxytocin functioning in young children with ASD is unknown.
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Mutual influences between partners' hormones shape conflict dialog and relationship duration at the initiation of romantic love.
Soc Neurosci
PUBLISHED: 03-03-2014
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Early-stage romantic love involves reorganization of neurohormonal systems and behavioral patterns marked by mutual influences between the partners' physiology and behavior. Guided by the biobehavioral synchrony conceptual frame, we tested bidirectional influences between the partners' hormones and conflict behavior at the initiation of romantic love. Participants included 120 new lovers (60 couples) and 40 singles. Plasma levels of five affiliation and stress-related hormones were assessed: oxytocin (OT), prolactin (PRL), testosterone (T), cortisol (CT), and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS). Couples were observed in conflict interaction coded for empathy and hostility. CT and DHEAS showed direct actor effects: higher CT and DHEAS predicted greater hostility. OT showed direct partner effects: individuals whose partners had higher OT showed greater empathy. T and CT showed combined actor-partner effects. High T predicted greater hostility only when partner also had high T, but lower hostility when partner had low T. Similarly, CT predicted low empathy only in the context of high partner's CT. Mediational analysis indicated that combined high CT in both partners was associated with relationship breakup as mediated by decrease in empathy. Findings demonstrate the mutual influences between hormones and behavior within an attachment bond and underscore the dynamic, co-regulated, and systemic nature of pair-bond formation in humans.
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Oxytocin enhances brain function in children with autism.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PUBLISHED: 12-02-2013
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Following intranasal administration of oxytocin (OT), we measured, via functional MRI, changes in brain activity during judgments of socially (Eyes) and nonsocially (Vehicles) meaningful pictures in 17 children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD). OT increased activity in the striatum, the middle frontal gyrus, the medial prefrontal cortex, the right orbitofrontal cortex, and the left superior temporal sulcus. In the striatum, nucleus accumbens, left posterior superior temporal sulcus, and left premotor cortex, OT increased activity during social judgments and decreased activity during nonsocial judgments. Changes in salivary OT concentrations from baseline to 30 min postadministration were positively associated with increased activity in the right amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex during social vs. nonsocial judgments. OT may thus selectively have an impact on salience and hedonic evaluations of socially meaningful stimuli in children with ASD, and thereby facilitate social attunement. These findings further the development of a neurophysiological systems-level understanding of mechanisms by which OT may enhance social functioning in children with ASD.
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Stress reactivity in war-exposed young children with and without posttraumatic stress disorder: relations to maternal stress hormones, parenting, and child emotionality and regulation.
Dev. Psychopathol.
PUBLISHED: 11-16-2013
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The current study examined biomarkers of stress in war-exposed young children and addressed maternal and child factors that may correlate with childrens stress response. Participants were 232 Israeli children aged 1.5-5 years, including 148 children exposed to continuous war. Similarly, 56 were diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 92 were defined as exposed-no-PTSD. Child cortisol (CT) and salivary alpha amylase (sAA), biomarkers of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and sympathetic-adrenal-medullary arms of the stress response, were measured at baseline, following challenge, and at recovery. Maternal CT and sAA, PTSD symptoms, and reciprocal parenting, and child negative emotionality and regulatory strategies were assessed. Differences between war-exposed children and controls emerged, but these were related to child PTSD status. Children with PTSD exhibited consistently low CT and sAA, exposed-no-PTSD displayed consistently high CT and sAA, and controls showed increase in CT following challenge and decrease at recovery and low sAA. Exposed children showed higher negative emotionality; however, whereas exposed-no-PTSD children employed comfort-seeking strategies, children with PTSD used withdrawal. Predictors of child CT included maternal CT, PTSD symptoms, low reciprocity, and negative emotionality. Findings suggest that high physiological arousal combined with approach strategies may be associated with greater resilience in the context of early trauma.
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The brain basis of social synchrony.
Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci
PUBLISHED: 09-20-2013
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As a social species, humans evolved to detect information from the social behavior of others. Yet, the mechanisms used to evaluate social interactions, the brain networks implicated in such recognition, and whether individual differences in own social behavior determine response to similar behavior in others remain unknown. Here we examined social synchrony as a potentially important mechanism in the evaluation of social behavior and utilized the parenting context, an evolutionarily salient setting of significant consequences for infant survival, to test this issue. The brain response of healthy postpartum mothers to three mother-infant interaction vignettes was assessed. Videos included a typical synchronous interaction and two pathological interactions of mothers diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety that showed marked deviations from social synchrony. Mothers own interactions with their 4- to 6-month-old infants were videotaped and micro-coded for synchrony. Results indicated that the recognition of social synchrony involved activations in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), fusiform, cuneus, inferior parietal lobule, supplementary motor area and NAcc. Mothers own synchrony with her infant correlated with her dACC response to synchrony in others. Findings are consistent with models suggesting that social action underpins social recognition and highlight social synchrony and the mother-infant bond as one prototypical context for studying the brain basis of social understanding.
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Social, reward, and attention brain networks are involved when online bids for joint attention are met with congruent versus incongruent responses.
Soc Neurosci
PUBLISHED: 09-17-2013
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Joint attention (JA) is a cornerstone of adaptive human social functioning. Little functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) research has examined, in interactive paradigms, neural activation underlying bids for JA, met with a congruent or an incongruent social response. We developed a highly naturalistic fMRI paradigm utilizing eye-tracking to create real-time, contingent social responses to participant-initiated JA. During congruent responses to JA bids, we observed increased activation in the right amygdala, the right fusiform gyrus, anterior and dorsal anterior cingulate cortices, striatum, ventral tegmental area, and posterior parietal cortices. Incongruent responses to JA bids elicited increased activity localized to the right temporoparietal junction (TPJ) and bilateral cerebellum. No differences in eye-gaze patterns were observed during congruent or incongruent trials. Our results highlight the importance of utilizing interactive fMRI paradigms in social neuroscience and the impact of congruency in recruiting integrated social, reward, and attention circuits for processing JA.
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Oxytocin administration, salivary testosterone, and father-infant social behavior.
Prog. Neuropsychopharmacol. Biol. Psychiatry
PUBLISHED: 09-02-2013
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The growing involvement of fathers in childcare is followed by an increased interest in the neurobiology of fatherhood; yet, experimental work on the neuroendocrine basis of paternal care in humans is limited. The steroid Testosterone (T) and the neuropeptide Oxytocin (OT) have each been implicated in complex social behavior including parenting. However, no study to date explored the interaction between these two hormones in the context of fathering. In the current study we first test the relationship between fathers basal salivary T and father and infants social behaviors during parent-child interaction. Second, we examine the effects of intranasal OT administration on fathers T production, and, finally, address the relations between OT-induced change in fathers T with father-infant social behavior. Thirty-five fathers and their infants participated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject study. Father-infant interaction was micro-coded for paternal and infant social behavior and synchrony was measured as the coordination between their gaze, affect, and vocalizations. Fathers salivary T levels were measured at baseline and three times after administration. Results indicate that lower baseline T correlated with more optimal father and infants behaviors. OT administration altered T production in fathers, relative to the pattern of T in the placebo condition. Finally, OT-induced change in T levels correlated with parent-child social behaviors, including positive affect, social gaze, touch, and vocal synchrony. Findings support the view that neuroendocrine systems in human males evolved to support committed parenting and are the first to describe the dynamic interactions between OT and T within a bio-behavioral synchrony model.
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Oxytocin and vasopressin support distinct configurations of social synchrony.
Brain Res.
PUBLISHED: 08-26-2013
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Social synchrony - the coordination of behavior between interacting partners during social contact - is learned within the parent-infant bond and appears in a unique form in mothers and fathers. In this study, we examined hormonal effects of OT and AVP on maternal and paternal behavioral patterns and detail the processes of parent-infant social synchrony as they combine with hormonal activity. Participants included 119 mothers and fathers (not couples) and their 4-6 month-old infants. Baseline OT and AVP were collected from parents and a 10-minute face-to-face interaction with the infant was filmed. Interactions were micro-coded for parent-child contact, social signals, and social- versus-object focused play. Proportions and lag-sequential patterns of social behaviors were computed. Mothers provided more affectionate contact, while fathers provided more stimulatory contact. Parents with high OT levels displayed significantly more affectionate contact compared to parents with low OT and constructed the interaction towards readiness for social engagement by increasing social salience in response to infant social gaze. In contrast, parents with high AVP engaged in stimulatory contact and tended to increase object-salience when infants showed bids for social engagement. OT levels were independently predicted by the amount of affectionate contact and the durations of gaze synchrony, whereas AVP levels were predicted by stimulatory contact, joint attention to objects, and the parent increasing object salience following infant social gaze. Results further specify how synchronous bio-behavioral processes with mother and father support the human infants entry into the family unit and prepare the child for joining the larger social world. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Oxytocin and Social Behav.
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Cumulative risk on the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) underpins empathic communication difficulties at the first stages of romantic love.
Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci
PUBLISHED: 08-22-2013
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Empathic communication between couples plays an important role in relationship quality and individual well-being and research has pointed to the role of oxytocin in providing the neurobiological substrate for pair-bonding and empathy. Here, we examined links between genetic variability on the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) and empathic behaviour at the initiation of romantic love. Allelic variations on five OXTR single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) previously associated with susceptibility to disorders of social functioning were genotyped in 120 new lovers: OXTRrs13316193, rs2254298, rs1042778, rs2268494 and rs2268490. Cumulative genetic risk was computed by summing risk alleles on each SNP. Couples were observed in support-giving interaction and behaviour was coded for empathic communication, including affective congruence, maintaining focus on partner, acknowledging partners distress, reciprocal exchange and non-verbal empathy. Hierarchical linear modelling indicated that individuals with high OXTR risk exhibited difficulties in empathic communication. OXTR risk predicted empathic difficulties above and beyond the couple level, relationship duration, and anxiety and depressive symptoms. Findings underscore the involvement of oxytocin in empathic behaviour during the early stages of social affiliation, and suggest the utility of cumulative risk and plasticity indices on the OXTR as potential biomarkers for research on disorders of social dysfunction and the neurobiology of empathy.
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Impact of maternal depression across the first 6 years of life on the childs mental health, social engagement, and empathy: The moderating role of oxytocin.
Am J Psychiatry
PUBLISHED: 07-13-2013
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Maternal depression across the postbirth period has long-term negative consequences for infant development. Little is known of the neurobiological underpinnings, but they could involve oxytocin, a neuropeptide that is dysfunctional in depression and is implicated in birth and parenting.
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Oxytocin administration alters HPA reactivity in the context of parent-infant interaction.
Eur Neuropsychopharmacol
PUBLISHED: 05-01-2013
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The neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) and the steroid cortisol (CT) have each been implicated in complex social behavior, including parenting, and one mechanism by which OT is thought to exert its pro-social effects is by attenuating hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) response to stress. Yet, no study to date has tested whether OT functions to reduce CT production in the context of the parent-infant attachment. In the current study, we examined the effects of intranasal OT administered to the parent on parents and infants CT levels following parent-child interaction that included a social stressor. Utilizing a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject design, 35 fathers and their 5-month-old infants were observed in a face-to-face-still-face paradigm twice, one week apart. Interactions were micro-coded for social synchrony, and salivary CT were repeatedly assessed from parent and child. Results showed that OT increased fathers overall CT response to the stress paradigm. Furthermore, OT altered infants physiological and behavioral response as a function of parent-infant synchrony. Among infants experiencing high parent-infant synchrony, OT elevated infant HPA reactivity and increased infant social gaze to the father while father maintained a still-face. On the other hand, among infants experiencing low social synchrony, parental OT reduced the infants stress response and diminished social gaze toward the unavailable father. Results are consistent with the "social salience" hypothesis and highlight that OT effects on human social functioning are not uniform and depend on the individuals attachment history and social skills. Our findings call to further investigate the effects of OT administration within developmental contexts, particularly the parent-infant relationship.
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Maternal-Preterm Skin-to-Skin Contact Enhances Child Physiologic Organization and Cognitive Control Across the First 10 Years of Life.
Biol. Psychiatry
PUBLISHED: 04-06-2013
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Maternal-newborn contact enhances organization of the infants physiological systems, including stress reactivity, autonomic functioning, and sleep patterns, and supports maturation of the prefrontal cortex and its ensuing effects on cognitive and behavioral control. Premature birth disrupts brain development and is associated with maternal separation and disturbances of contact-sensitive systems. However, it is unknown whether the provision of maternal-preterm contact can improve long-term functioning of these systems.
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Parent-specific reciprocity from infancy to adolescence shapes childrens social competence and dialogical skills.
Attach Hum Dev
PUBLISHED: 04-02-2013
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Reciprocity - the capacity to engage in social exchange that integrates inputs from multiple partners into a unified social event - is a cornerstone of adaptive social life that is learned within dyad-specific attachments during an early period of neuroplasticity. Yet, very little research traced the expression of childrens reciprocity with their mother and father in relation to long-term outcomes. Guided by evolutionary models, we followed mothers, fathers, and their firstborn child longitudinally and observed mother-child and father-child reciprocity in infancy, preschool, and adolescence. In preschool, childrens social competence, aggression, and prosocial behavior were observed at kindergarten. In adolescence, childrens dialogical skills were assessed during positive and conflict interactions with same-sex best friends. Father-child and mother-child reciprocity were individually stable, inter-related at each stage, and consisted of distinct behavioral components. Structural equation modeling indicated that early maternal and paternal reciprocity were each uniquely predictive of social competence and lower aggression in preschool, which, in turn, shaped dialogical skills in adolescence. Father-adolescent reciprocity contributed to the dialogical negotiation of conflict, whereas mother-adolescent reciprocity predicted adolescents dialogical skills during positive exchanges. Results highlight the role of parent-child reciprocity in shaping childrens social collaboration and intimate relationships with non-kin members of their social world.
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Parental oxytocin and early caregiving jointly shape childrens oxytocin response and social reciprocity.
Neuropsychopharmacology
PUBLISHED: 01-16-2013
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Oxytocin (OT) has an important role in bond formation and social reciprocity, and animal studies indicate that OT functioning is transferred from parent to child through patterns of parental care. Perspectives on attachment suggest that the individuals various attachment bonds are underpinned by the oxytocinergic system. However, prospective human studies that demonstrate the cross-generation transfer of OT as mediated by early caregiving and its impact on childrens multiple attachments are lacking. To address these concerns, the current study included 160 mothers and fathers and their firstborn child who participated in a 3-year longitudinal study. At the first and sixth postpartum months, parents plasma OT was assayed, parent-infant interactions were videotaped and micro-coded, and allelic variations on the OXTR(rs2254298, rs1042778) and CD38rs3796863 genes were measured. At 3 years, parents and childs salivary OT was assessed and childrens social reciprocity observed during interactions with mother, father, and their first best friend. Parents OT levels were individually stable across the 3-year period, correlated with low-risk OXTR and CD38 alleles, and predicted child OT. Childs social reciprocity with friend was associated with child OT levels, mothers OT-related genes and hormones, and mother-child reciprocity, but not with fathers genes, hormones, or behavior. A cross-generation gene-by-environment effect emerged, with low child OT levels predicted by the interaction of maternal high-risk CD38 allele and diminished maternal care in infancy. These results demonstrate individual stability in peripheral OT across several years and describe a cross-generation transfer of OT through caregiving in humans within a prospective longitudinal design. Consistent with other mammals, biobehavioral experiences within the parent-infant bond shape childrens affiliative biology and social behavior across multiple attachments. Our findings bear important implications for conditions involving disruptions to maternal-infant bonding and underscore the potential for peer-based interventions.
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Oxytocin shapes parental motion during father-infant interaction.
Biol. Lett.
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2013
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An infant-oriented parental repertoire contributes to an infants development and well-being. The role of oxytocin (OT) in promoting affiliative bonds and parenting has been established in numerous animal and human studies. Recently, acute administration of OT to a parent was found to enhance the carers, but at the same time also the infants, physiological and behavioural readiness for dyadic social engagement. Yet, the exact cues that are involved in this affiliative transmission process remain unclear. The existing literature suggests that motion and vocalization are key social signals for the offspring that facilitates social participation, and that distance and motion perception are modulated by OT in humans. Here, we employed a computational method on video vignettes of human parent-infant interaction including 32 fathers that were administered OT or a placebo in a crossover experimental design. Results indicate that OT modulates parental proximity to the infant, as well as the fathers head speed and head acceleration but not the fathers vocalization during dyadic interaction. Similarly, the infants OT reactivity is positively correlated with fathers head acceleration. The current findings are the first to report a relationship between the OT system and parental motion characteristics, further suggesting that the cross-generation transmission of parenting in humans might be underlaid by nuanced, infant-oriented, gestures relating to the carers proximity, speed and acceleration within the dyadic context.
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Love alters autonomic reactivity to emotions.
Emotion
PUBLISHED: 12-07-2011
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Periods of bond formation are accompanied by physiological and emotional changes, yet, little is known about the effects of falling in love on the individuals physiological response to emotions. We examined autonomic reactivity to the presentation of negative and positive films in 112 young adults, including 57 singles and 55 new lovers who began a romantic relationship 2.5 months prior to the experiment Autonomic reactivity was measured by Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA) to two baseline emotionally neutral films, two negative films, and two positive films. Results demonstrated that RSA in singles decreased during the presentation of negative emotions, indicating physiological stress response. However, no such decrease was found among new lovers, pointing to more optimal vagal regulation during the period of falling in love. Autonomic reactivity, indexed by RSA decrease from the positive to the negative films, was greater among singles as compared to lovers, suggesting that love buffers against autonomic stress and facilitates emotion regulation. Findings suggest that vagal regulation may be one mechanism through which love and attachment reduce stress and promote well-being and health.
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Neonatal brainstem dysfunction risks infant social engagement.
Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci
PUBLISHED: 12-05-2011
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The role of the brainstem in mediating social signaling in phylogenetic ancestral organisms has been demonstrated. Evidence for its involvement in social engagement in human infants may deepen the understanding of the evolutionary pathway of humans as social beings. In this longitudinal study, neonatal brainstem functioning was measured by auditory brainstem-evoked responses (ABRs) in 125 healthy neonates born prematurely before 35 weeks gestational age. At 4 months, infants were tested in a set of structured vignettes that required varying levels of social engagement and cardiac vagal tone was assessed. Data show that neonates with a disrupted I-V waveform, evident mostly by delayed wave V, exhibit shorter latencies to gaze averts in episodes involving direct face-to-face interactions but engage gaze as controls when interacting with masked agents or with agents whose faces are partly veiled by toys. Analysis of variance of infants social engagement with ABR, neonatal risk, maternal stress and cardiac vagal tone showed a main effect for ABR and an ABR by gestational age interaction. The integrity of brainstem transmission of sensory information during the final weeks of gestation may scaffold the development of social disengagement, thereby attesting to the brainstems preserved evolutionary role in developing humans as social organisms prior to engaging in social encounters.
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Oxytocin and social motivation.
Dev Cogn Neurosci
PUBLISHED: 10-11-2011
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Humans are fundamentally social creatures who are ‘motivated’ to be with others. In this review we examine the role of oxytocin (OT) as it relates to social motivation. OT is synthesized in the brain and throughout the body, including in the heart, thymus, gastrointestinal tract, as well as reproductive organs. The distribution of the OT receptor (OTR) system in both the brain and periphery is even more far-reaching and its expression is subject to changes over the course of development. OTR expression is also sensitive to changes in the external environment and the internal somatic world. The OT system functions as an important element within a complex, developmentally sensitive biobehavioral system. Other elements include sensory inputs, the salience, reward, and threat detection pathways, the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal stress response axis. Despite an ever expanding scientific literature, key unresolved questions remain concerning the interplay of the central and peripheral components of this complex biobehavioral system that dynamically engages the brain and the body as humans interact with social partners over the course of development.
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Sleep-wake transitions in premature neonates predict early development.
Pediatrics
PUBLISHED: 09-12-2011
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To identify patterns of sleep-wake transitions in the neonatal period that might differentiate premature infants who would show better or worse outcomes in multiple developmental domains across the first 5 years of life.
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Specifying the neurobiological basis of human attachment: brain, hormones, and behavior in synchronous and intrusive mothers.
Neuropsychopharmacology
PUBLISHED: 08-31-2011
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The mother-infant bond provides the foundation for the infants future mental health and adaptation and depends on the provision of species-typical maternal behaviors that are supported by neuroendocrine and motivation-affective neural systems. Animal research has demonstrated that natural variations in patterns of maternal care chart discrete profiles of maternal brain-behavior relationships that uniquely shape the infants lifetime capacities for stress regulation and social affiliation. Such patterns of maternal care are mediated by the neuropeptide Oxytocin and by stress- and reward-related neural systems. Human studies have similarly shown that maternal synchrony--the coordination of maternal behavior with infant signals--and intrusiveness--the excessive expression of maternal behavior--describe distinct and stable maternal styles that bear long-term consequences for infant well-being. To integrate brain, hormones, and behavior in the study of maternal-infant bonding, we examined the fMRI responses of synchronous vs intrusive mothers to dynamic, ecologically valid infant videos and their correlations with plasma Oxytocin. In all, 23 mothers were videotaped at home interacting with their infants and plasma OT assayed. Sessions were micro-coded for synchrony and intrusiveness. Mothers were scanned while observing several own and standard infant-related vignettes. Synchronous mothers showed greater activations in the left nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and intrusive mothers exhibited higher activations in the right amygdala. Functional connectivity analysis revealed that among synchronous mothers, left NAcc and right amygdala were functionally correlated with emotion modulation, theory-of-mind, and empathy networks. Among intrusive mothers, left NAcc and right amygdala were functionally correlated with pro-action areas. Sorting points into neighborhood (SPIN) analysis demonstrated that in the synchronous group, left NAcc and right amygdala activations showed clearer organization across time, whereas among intrusive mothers, activations of these nuclei exhibited greater cross-time disorganization. Correlations between Oxytocin with left NAcc and right amygdala activations were found only in the synchronous group. Well-adapted parenting appears to be underlay by reward-related motivational mechanisms, temporal organization, and affiliation hormones, whereas anxious parenting is likely mediated by stress-related mechanisms and greater neural disorganization. Assessing the integration of motivation and social networks into unified neural activity that reflects variations in patterns of parental care may prove useful for the study of optimal vs high-risk parenting.
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Breastfeeding, brain activation to own infant cry, and maternal sensitivity.
J Child Psychol Psychiatry
PUBLISHED: 04-18-2011
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Research points to the importance of breastfeeding for promoting close mother-infant contact and social-emotional development. Recent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have identified brain regions related to maternal behaviors. However, little research has addressed the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the relationship between breastfeeding and maternal behavior in human mothers. We investigated the associations between breastfeeding, maternal brain response to own infant stimuli, and maternal sensitivity in the early postpartum.
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Parental and romantic attachment shape brain processing of infant cues.
Biol Psychol
PUBLISHED: 03-27-2011
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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 ones own offspring.
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Posttraumatic stress disorder in infants and young children exposed to war-related trauma.
J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry
PUBLISHED: 02-24-2011
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Although millions of the worlds children are growing up amidst armed conflict, little research has described the specific symptom manifestations and relational behavior in young children exposed to wartime trauma or assessed factors that chart pathways of risk and resilience.
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Visual assessment in children with cerebral palsy: implementation of a functional questionnaire.
Dev Med Child Neurol
PUBLISHED: 02-11-2011
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The aim of this study was to evaluate an interdisciplinary visual assessment for multiply challenged children diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP).
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Mother and infant coordinate heart rhythms through episodes of interaction synchrony.
Infant Behav Dev
PUBLISHED: 02-10-2011
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Animal studies demonstrated the powerful impact of maternal-infant social contact on the infants physiological systems, yet the online effects of social interactions on the human infants physiology remain poorly understood. Mothers and their 3-month old infants were observed during face-to-face interactions while cardiac output was collected from mother and child. Micro-analysis of the partners behavior marked episodes of gaze, affect, and vocal synchrony. Time-series analysis showed that mother and infant coordinate heart rhythms within lags of less than 1 s. Bootstrapping analysis indicated that the concordance between maternal and infant biological rhythms increased significantly during episodes of affect and vocal synchrony compared to non-synchronous moments. Humans, like other mammals, can impact the physiological processes of the attachment partner through the coordination of visuo-affective social signals.
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The expression and regulation of anger in toddlers: relations to maternal behavior and mental representations.
Infant Behav Dev
PUBLISHED: 02-01-2011
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Anger is an intense and adaptive approach emotion that undergoes significant development during the toddler years. We assessed the expression of anger and the strategies toddlers use to regulate it in relation to maternal behavior and mental representations. Seventy-four toddlers were observed in three anger-eliciting paradigms: toy removal (TR), still-face (SF), and delayed gratification (DG). Anger expression and three clusters of regulatory behaviors were micro-coded: putative regulatory behaviors, attention manipulation, and play behaviors. Maternal relational style was coded for sensitivity and intrusiveness, and mental representations of the mother-child relationship were assessed for joy and anger. Children expressed the most anger during the TR, less during the SF, and minimally during the DG. Use of putative regulatory behaviors was highest during the SF, whereas during the TR children employed newly acquired skills, such as focused attention and substitutive play, in the service of anger regulation. Anger expression and regulation were differentially related to the negative and positive components in the mothers behavior and representations, and maternal intrusiveness moderated the relations between angry representations and the degree of child anger during the SF. Results are consistent with dynamic models of emotions and accord with perspectives that emphasize the role of sensitive parenting in facilitating emotion regulation.
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Maternal and paternal plasma, salivary, and urinary oxytocin and parent-infant synchrony: considering stress and affiliation components of human bonding.
Dev Sci
PUBLISHED: 12-16-2010
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Studies in mammals have implicated the neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) in processes of bond formation and stress modulation, yet the involvement of OT in human bonding throughout life remains poorly understood. We assessed OT in the plasma, saliva, and urine of 112 mothers and fathers interacting with their 4-6-month-old infants. Parent-infant interactions were micro-coded for parent and childs social behaviors and for the temporal coordination of their socio-affective cues. Parents were interviewed regarding their attachment to the infant and reported on bonding to own parents, romantic attachment, and parenting stress. Results indicated that OT in plasma (pOT) and saliva (sOT) were inter-related and were unrelated to OT in urine (uOT). pOT and sOT in mothers and fathers were associated with parent and childs social engagement, affect synchrony, and positive communicative sequences between parent and child. uOT was related to moments of interactive stress among mothers only, indexed by the co-occurrence of infant negative engagement and mother re-engagement attempts. pOT and sOT were associated with mothers and fathers attachment relationships throughout life: to own parents, partner, and infant, whereas uOT correlated with relationship anxiety and parenting stress among mothers only. Similar to other mammals, OT is involved in human attachment and contingent parenting. The dual role of OT in stress and affiliation underscores its complex involvement in processes of social bonding throughout life.
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Family functioning and interactive patterns in the context of infant psychopathology.
J Fam Psychol
PUBLISHED: 10-20-2010
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Family functioning and mother-infant relational patterns were examined in 38 clinic-referred infants and 34 matched non-referred infants. Referred infants were diagnosed with the Diagnostic Classification for Zero to Three. On the family level, referred families showed significantly lower family functioning in all domains of emotional and instrumental communication, regardless of the specific infants diagnoses. On the dyadic level, referred mothers were more intrusive and their infants were more withdrawn during dyadic interactions. Clinic-referred mothers reported higher levels of phobia and depression. Global family functioning was predicted by the infants clinical status, maternal intrusiveness, and maternal psychopathology. Infant mental health clinicians need to address both family level and dyadic level of functioning, regardless of the reason for the infants referral.
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The plasticity of human maternal brain: longitudinal changes in brain anatomy during the early postpartum period.
Behav. Neurosci.
PUBLISHED: 10-14-2010
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Animal studies suggest that structural changes occur in the maternal brain during the early postpartum period in regions such as the hypothalamus, amygdala, parietal lobe, and prefrontal cortex and such changes are related to the expression of maternal behaviors. In an attempt to explore this in humans, we conducted a prospective longitudinal study to examine gray matter changes using voxel-based morphometry on high resolution magnetic resonance images of mothers brains at two time points: 2-4 weeks postpartum and 3-4 months postpartum. Comparing gray matter volumes across these two time points, we found increases in gray matter volume of the prefrontal cortex, parietal lobes, and midbrain areas. Increased gray matter volume in the midbrain including the hypothalamus, substantia nigra, and amygdala was associated with maternal positive perception of her baby. These results suggest that the first months of motherhood in humans are accompanied by structural changes in brain regions implicated in maternal motivation and behaviors.
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Perceived quality of maternal care in childhood and structure and function of mothers brain.
Dev Sci
PUBLISHED: 07-02-2010
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Animal studies indicate that early maternal care has long-term effects on brain areas related to social attachment and parenting, whereas neglectful mothering is linked with heightened stress reactivity in the hippocampus across the lifespan. The present study explores the possibility, using magnetic resonance imaging, that perceived quality of maternal care in childhood is associated with brain structure and functional responses to salient infant stimuli among human mothers in the first postpartum month. Mothers who reported higher maternal care in childhood showed larger grey matter volumes in the superior and middle frontal gyri, orbital gyrus, superior temporal gyrus and fusiform gyrus. In response to infant cries, these mothers exhibited higher activations in the middle frontal gyrus, superior temporal gyrus and fusiform gyrus, whereas mothers reporting lower maternal care showed increased hippocampal activations. These findings suggest that maternal care in childhood may be associated with anatomy and functions in brain regions implicated in appropriate responsivity to infant stimuli in human mothers.
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Oxytocin, cortisol, and triadic family interactions.
Physiol. Behav.
PUBLISHED: 06-09-2010
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The neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) supports the development of parenting in mammals primarily through its impact on parent-infant proximity and touch behaviors; however, much less is known about the links between OT and parental touch and contact in humans. In this study, we examined the relations between maternal and paternal OT and patterns of touch and contact in the family unit during triadic interactions. Thirty-seven parents and their firstborn child were seen twice: during the 2nd and 6th postpartum month. Plasma OT and salivary cortisol (CT) were assessed with ELISA methods. At six months, triadic mother-father-infant interactions were videotaped and micro-coded for patterns of proximity, touch, and gaze behavior. Triadic synchrony, defined as moments of coordination between physical proximity and affectionate touch between the parents as well as between parent and infant while both parent and child are synchronizing their social gaze, was predicted by both maternal and paternal OT. Among mothers, triadic synchrony was also independently related to lower levels of CT. Results highlight the role of OT in the early formation of the family unit at the transition to parenthood.
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The cross-generation transmission of oxytocin in humans.
Horm Behav
PUBLISHED: 05-12-2010
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Animal studies demonstrated that the neuropeptide oxytocin (OT), implicated in bond formation across mammalian species, is transmitted from mother to young through mechanisms of early social experiences; however, no research has addressed the cross-generation transmission of OT in humans. Fifty-five parents (36 mothers and 19 fathers) engaged in a 15-min interaction with their infants. Baseline plasma OT was sampled from parents and salivary OT was sampled from parents and infants before and after play and analyzed with ELISA methods. Interactions were micro-coded for parent and childs socio-affective behavior. Parent and infants salivary OT was individually stable across assessments and showed an increase from pre- to post-interaction. Significant correlations emerged between parental and infant OT at both assessments and higher OT levels in parent and child were related to greater affect synchrony and infant social engagement. Parent-infant affect synchrony moderated the relations between parental and infant OT and the associations between OT in parent and child were stronger under conditions of high affect synchrony. Results demonstrate consistency in the neuroendocrine system supporting bond formation in humans and other mammals and underscore the role of early experience in shaping the cross-generation transmission of social affiliation in humans.
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The relational basis of adolescent adjustment: trajectories of mother-child interactive behaviors from infancy to adolescence shape adolescents adaptation.
Attach Hum Dev
PUBLISHED: 04-15-2010
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Theories of social-emotional growth propose that repeatedly-experienced parent-infant interactions shape the individuals adaptation across development, yet few studies examined interactive behaviors repeatedly from infancy to adolescence. This study assessed the trajectories of four mother-child relational behaviors at six time-points from 3 months to 13 years: maternal sensitivity, child social engagement, mother intrusiveness, and dyadic reciprocity. Trajectories were examined separately for infants who later exhibited higher and lower psychological adaptation in adolescence. Overall, relational behaviors changed substantially with age in non-linear ways and changes in the four patterns were inter-related. Differences between the high- and low-adaptation groups were observed for maternal sensitivity and intrusiveness already in infancy and differences on all factors emerged at the transition to adolescence. Maternal sensitivity, mother intrusiveness, and dyadic reciprocity were individually stable from infancy to adolescence. Maternal psychological distress, infant difficult temperament, and dyadic reciprocity predicted adolescent adaptation. Results point to the long-term effects of risk and resilience components in the mother-infant relationship and underscore continuity in social development from infancy.
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Parent-child and triadic antecedents of childrens social competence: cultural specificity, shared process.
Dev Psychol
PUBLISHED: 03-10-2010
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Guided by theories of cultural participation, the authors examined mother-child, father-child, and triadic interactive behaviors in 141 Israeli and Palestinian couples and their firstborn child at 5 and 33 months as antecedents of childrens social competence. Four parent-child measures (parent sensitivity, child social engagement, parental control, dyadic reciprocity) and two family-level measures (cohesion and rigidity) were coded at each age. Childrens social competence was observed at child-care locations. Cultural differences were observed for parent sensitivity and child social engagement, and the large cultural differences in sensitivity observed in infancy were attenuated by the toddler age. Interactive behaviors correlated with culture-specific parenting practices, child-rearing goals, and sex-role attitudes. Mother-child reciprocity in infancy and child engagement with father and family-level cohesion at both time points predicted social competence. Maternal sensitivity in infancy facilitated social competence only among Israeli children. Paternal control in toddlerhood interfered with Israeli childrens social functioning but contributed to competence among Palestinians. Results underscore the links between early relational experiences and childrens adaptation to the social milieu.
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Conflict resolution in the parent-child, marital, and peer contexts and childrens aggression in the peer group: a process-oriented cultural perspective.
Dev Psychol
PUBLISHED: 03-10-2010
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Theories of socialization propose that childrens ability to handle conflicts is learned at home through mechanisms of participation and observation-participating in parent-child conflict and observing the conflicts between parents. We assessed modes of conflict resolution in the parent-child, marriage, and peer-group contexts among 141 Israeli and Palestinian families and their 1st-born toddler. We observed the ecology of parent-child conflict during home visits, the couples discussion of marital conflicts, and childrens conflicts with peers as well as aggressive behavior at child care. Israeli families used more open-ended tactics, including negotiation and disregard, and conflict was often resolved by compromise, whereas Palestinian families tended to consent or object. During marital discussions, Israeli couples showed more emotional empathy, whereas Palestinians displayed more instrumental solutions. Modes of conflict resolution across contexts were interrelated in culture-specific ways. Child aggression was predicted by higher marital hostility, more coparental undermining behavior, and ineffective discipline in both cultures. Greater family compromise and marital empathy predicted lower aggression among Israeli toddlers, whereas more resolution by consent predicted lower aggression among Palestinians. Considering the cultural basis of conflict resolution within close relationships may expand understanding on the roots of aggression.
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Touch attenuates infants physiological reactivity to stress.
Dev Sci
PUBLISHED: 02-09-2010
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Animal studies demonstrate that maternal touch and contact regulate infant stress, and handling during periods of maternal deprivation attenuates the stress response. To measure the effects of touch on infant stress reactivity during simulated maternal deprivation, 53 dyads were tested in two paradigms: still-face (SF) and still-face with maternal touch (SF+T). Maternal and infant cortisol levels were sampled at baseline, reactivity, and recovery and mothers and infants cardiac vagal tone were measured during the free play, still-face, and reunion episodes of the procedure. Cortisol reactivity was higher among infants in the SF condition and while cortisol decreased at recovery for infants in the SF+T, it further increased for those in the SF. Vagal tone showed a greater suppression when SF was not accompanied by maternal touch. Touch synchrony during free play was associated with higher infant vagal tone, whereas touch myssynchrony--maternal tactile stimulation while the infant gaze averts--correlated with higher maternal and infant cortisol. In humans, as in mammals, the provision of touch during moments of maternal unavailability reduces infants physiological reactivity to stress.
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Oxytocin and the development of parenting in humans.
Biol. Psychiatry
PUBLISHED: 02-03-2010
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The nonapeptide oxytocin (OT) has been repeatedly implicated in processes of parent-infant bonding in animal models; yet, its role in the development of human parenting has received less attention and no research has addressed the involvement of OT in the transition to fatherhood.
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Prolactin, Oxytocin, and the development of paternal behavior across the first six months of fatherhood.
Horm Behav
PUBLISHED: 01-24-2010
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Animal studies have implicated the neuropeptides Prolactin (PRL) and Oxytocin (OT) in processes of maternal bonding and PRL has similarly been shown to play a role in the neurophysiology of fatherhood. Yet, very little is known on the involvement of PRL and OT in human fathering. Forty-three fathers and their firstborn infant were seen twice: in the second and sixth postpartum months. Paternal plasma PRL and OT were sampled at both time-points and analyzed with ELISA methods. At six months fathers were videotaped interacting with their child in social and exploratory play contexts and interactions were micro-analyzed for father-infant Affect Synchrony and father facilitation of child toy exploration. PRL and OT showed high individual stability across time and were correlated at the second observation. PRL was related to father-infant Coordinated Exploratory Play in the toy context whereas OT was associated with father-infant Affect Synchrony in the social context. Results point to the role of PRL and OT in the development of human fathering and underscore their differential relations with patterns of paternal care.
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Natural variations in maternal and paternal care are associated with systematic changes in oxytocin following parent-infant contact.
Psychoneuroendocrinology
PUBLISHED: 01-19-2010
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Animal studies have demonstrated that the neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) plays a critical role in processes of parent-infant bonding through mechanisms of early parental care, particularly maternal grooming and contact. Yet, the involvement of OT in human parenting remains poorly understood, no data are available on the role of OT in the development of human fathering, and the links between patterns of parental care and the OT response have not been explored in humans. One hundred and twelve mothers and fathers engaged in a 15-min play-and-contact interaction with their 4-6-month-old infants and interactions were micro-coded for patterns of parental touch. Results showed that baseline levels of plasma and salivary OT in mothers and fathers were similar, OT levels in plasma and saliva were inter-related, and OT was associated with the parent-specific mode of tactile contact. Human mothers who provided high levels of affectionate contact showed an OT increase following mother-infant interaction but such increase was not observed among mothers displaying low levels of affectionate contact. Among fathers, only those exhibiting high levels of stimulatory contact showed an OT increase. These results demonstrate consistency in the neuroendocrine basis of human parental interactions with those seen in other mammals. The findings underscore the need to provide opportunities for paternal care to trigger the biological basis of fatherhood and suggest that interventions that permit social engagement may be recommended in conditions of diminished maternal-infant contact, such as prematurity or postpartum depression.
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Maternal depression and anxiety across the postpartum year and infant social engagement, fear regulation, and stress reactivity.
J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry
PUBLISHED: 07-24-2009
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To examine the effects of maternal depression on infant social engagement, fear regulation, and cortisol reactivity as compared with maternal anxiety disorders and controls and to assess the role of maternal sensitivity in moderating the relations between maternal depression and infant outcome.
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Triplets across the first 5 years: the discordant infant at birth remains at developmental risk.
Pediatrics
PUBLISHED: 07-01-2009
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To examine whether the risk posed to infant development by triplet birth persists into childhood and whether growth-discordant triplets are at a particularly high developmental risk.
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The transition to oral feeding in low-risk premature infants: relation to infant neurobehavioral functioning and mother-infant feeding interaction.
Early Hum. Dev.
PUBLISHED: 06-20-2009
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The achievement of oral feeding is a critical task for the premature infant-mother dyad, yet neurobehavioral and relational factors associated with feeding difficulties of low-risk premature infants during hospitalization are not well understood.
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Rapid eye movement (REM) in premature neonates and developmental outcome at 6 months.
Infant Behav Dev
PUBLISHED: 06-06-2009
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Different aspects of early sleep organization have been associated with subsequent development in premature infants. The aim of the present study was to assess the relations between rapid eye movement (REM) activity in premature neonates and infants developmental outcomes at 6 months. Participants were 81 premature infants (47 males). Sleep-wake states and REM were observed across 4 consecutive evening hours (7-11 PM) in 10-s frames when infants were between 32 and 36 weeks post-menstrual age. Developmental outcome was assessed at 6 months with the mental development index (MDI) of the Bayley II. Infants with low-REM activity spent more time in less growth-promoting states, including crying and unfocused alert states in the neonatal period and had lower MDI scores at 6 months corrected age compared to infants with high-REM. Differences between the high- and low-REM groups were independent of neonatal medical risk. Low-REM activity may serve as an indicator of developmental risk among premature neonates.
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The development of regulatory functions from birth to 5 years: insights from premature infants.
Child Dev
PUBLISHED: 05-27-2009
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This study examined physiological, emotional, and attentional regulatory functions as predictors of self-regulation in 125 infants followed 7 times from birth to 5 years. Physiological regulation was assessed by neonatal vagal tone and sleep-wake cyclicity; emotion regulation by response to stress at 3, 6, and 12 months; and attention regulation by focused attention and delayed response in the 2nd year. Executive functions, behavior adaptation, and self-restraint were measured at 5 years. Regulatory functions showed stability across time, measures, and levels. Structural modeling demonstrated both mediated paths from physiological to self-regulation through emotional and attentional processes and direct continuity between vagal tone and each level of regulation. Results support the coherence of the regulation construct and are consistent with neurobiological models on self and consciousness.
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Maternal representations, infant psychiatric status, and mother-child relationship in clinic-referred and non-referred infants.
Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry
PUBLISHED: 05-26-2009
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To examine the relations between maternal representations, infant socio-emotional difficulties, and mother-child relational behavior, 49 clinic-referred infants and their mothers were compared to 30 non-referred controls. Clinic-referred infants psychiatric status was determined with the DC 0-3-R classification of Zeanah and Benoit (Child Adolesc Psychiatry Clin N Am 4:539-554, 1995) and controls were screened for socio-emotional difficulties. Mothers were interviewed with the parent development interview (Aber et al. in The parent development interview. Unpublished manuscript, 1985) and dyads were observed in free play and problem-solving interactions. Group differences emerged for maternal representations and relational behaviors. Representations of clinic-referred mothers were characterized by lower joy, coherence, and richness, and higher anger experienced in the mother-infant relationship compared to controls. During free play, clinic-referred mothers showed lower sensitivity and higher intrusiveness and provided less adequate instrumental and emotional assistance and support during problem solving. Referred children showed lower social engagement during free play. Associations were found among maternal representations, maternal interactive behavior, child social engagement, and the childs ability to self-regulate during a challenging task. These findings provide empirical support for theoretical and clinical perspectives suggesting a reciprocal link between maternal negative representations and mother and childs maladaptive behaviors in the context of early socio-emotional difficulties and mental health referrals.
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Parasympathetic reactivity to recalled traumatic and pleasant events in trauma-exposed individuals.
J Trauma Stress
PUBLISHED: 05-16-2009
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Parasympathetic and heart rate (HR) reactivity to memories of traumatic and pleasant events were investigated in trauma-exposed individuals (n = 40). Vagal tone and HR were recorded before, during, and following recall of traumatic and pleasant events. Posttraumatic stress (PTS) was related to blunted parasympathetic reactivity among trauma-exposed individuals. Specifically, PTS severity was related to lower parasympathetic activation and lower recovery following trauma recall, and to lower parasympathetic activation (but not recovery) in response to a pleasant event recall. No association was observed between PTS severity and initial parasympathetic tone. However, PTS severity was associated with initial HR. Assessment of parasympathetic reactivity may enhance our understanding of the normative and pathological reactions to trauma and stress.
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Biological and environmental initial conditions shape the trajectories of cognitive and social-emotional development across the first years of life.
Dev Sci
PUBLISHED: 01-06-2009
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Human development is thought to evolve from the dynamic interchange of biological dispositions and environmental provisions; yet the effects of specific biological and environmental birth conditions on the trajectories of cognitive and social-emotional growth have rarely been studied. We observed 126 children at six time-points from birth to 5 years. Intelligence, maternal sensitivity, and child social engagement were repeatedly tested. Effects of neonatal vagal tone (VT) and maternal postpartum depressive symptoms on growth-rates were assessed. Cognitive development showed a substantial growth-spurt between 2 and 5 years and social engagement increased rapidly across the first year and more gradually thereafter. VT improved cognitive and social-emotional growth-rates across the first year, whereas maternal depressive symptoms interfered with growth from 2 to 5 years. Differences between infants with none, one, or two non-optimal birth conditions increased with age. Findings shed light on the dynamics of early development as it is shaped by biological and environmental initial conditions.
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Salivary vasopressin increases following intranasal oxytocin administration.
Peptides
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Extant research has documented the effects of intranasal administration of oxytocin (OT), and to a lesser degree Arginine Vasopressin (AVP) - two structurally-related neuropeptides - on brain and behaviour, yet the effects of exogenous manipulation of one on circulating levels of the other remain unknown. Studies have shown that OT administration impacts the peripheral levels of numerous hormones; however, whether OT administration also increases AVP concentrations has not been explored. Utilizing a double-blind placebo-controlled within-subject design, ten male and female subjects provided ten saliva samples over four consecutive hours: at baseline and nine times following OT administration. Results indicate that salivary AVP increased in the first hour following OT manipulation (OT condition: mean AVP=2.17 pg/ml, SE=28, placebo condition: mean AVP=1.42 pg/ml, SE=.18) but returned to baseline levels at the next assessment (80 min) and remained low for the remaining period. Similar to OT, AVP showed high degree of individual stability and baseline levels of AVP correlated with AVP concentrations at the first and second post-administration hours regardless of drug condition (Pearson r=.85-.93). Validity of salivary AVP ELISA measurement was verified by demonstrating individual stability of salivary AVP over a six-month period (r=.70, p<.000) as well correlation with plasma levels over the same period (r=.32, p=.037) in a sample of 45 young adults who did not participate in the current study. Overall, findings suggest a potential crosstalk between OT and AVP and indicate that baseline levels of the two neuropeptides may shape the degree to which these systems respond to exogenous manipulation.
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Plasma oxytocin distributions in a large cohort of women and men and their gender-specific associations with anxiety.
Psychoneuroendocrinology
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Research has consistently addressed the relations between plasma oxytocin (OT) - a nonapeptide implicated in mammalian social bonding - and psychological distress, but the direction of the association remains unclear. Utilizing the largest sample of plasma OT to date (N=473), the current study had two goals. First, we described the distributions of plasma OT in women and men, and second, we examined whether the relations between OT and two types of anxiety - trait and attachment anxiety - are moderated by gender. Results indicated that OT values (M=375.78 pg/ml, SD=264.03, range=51.40-2752.30) clustered around the mean with a long right tail, indicating trend toward high values. In most participants (N=323), OT was measured again six months after initial assessment and OT levels were highly stable within individuals. After removing outliers 2.5 SD above the mean (?1098 pg/ml for men and ?988 pg/ml for women), men showed significantly higher mean OT than women (women: 327.13 pg/ml, SD=164.43; men: 399.91, SD=183.65; t=2.57, p=.01). Gender was found to moderate the relations between OT and anxiety. Trait anxiety was lower among men with higher OT but no such links emerged for women, supporting the hypothesized anxiolytic effects of OT in males only. Furthermore, women with extreme values (?988 pg/ml) had three times the probability of being classified as highly anxious (STAI-T?45). Higher OT in women correlated with greater attachment anxiety, but no such relationships were found for men. Results are consistent with models on the differential associations between the neurobiology of attachment and the experience of anxiety in women and men.
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Infant reminders alter sympathetic reactivity and reduce couple hostility at the transition to parenthood.
Dev Psychol
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The transition to parenthood marks an important developmental stage in adult life, associated with unique challenges to the partners conflict dialogue in the formation of the family unit. Utilizing a biobehavioral experimental design, we examined the potential positive effects of the infant on the couples conflict discussion. One hundred forty new parents of 6-month-old infants engaged in a face-to-face marital conflict discussion, while sympathetic reactivity was recorded online from mother and father and conflict interaction was microcoded for hostility and empathy. In the experimental group, a picture of ones own infant appeared on a screen halfway into the interaction, whereas controls viewed an affectively neutral stimulus. Infant reminders decreased mothers sympathetic arousal, whereas fathers reacted with sympathetic vigilance by preserving sympathetic arousal. For both parents, infant reminders decreased couple hostility in parent-specific ways. Results accord with life-span developmental perspectives, support evolutionary models of mothering and fathering, and suggest that infants may enhance the quality of marital dialogue during this stressful transition.
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Synchrony and specificity in the maternal and the paternal brain: relations to oxytocin and vasopressin.
J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry
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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.
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Oxytocin administration to parent enhances infant physiological and behavioral readiness for social engagement.
Biol. Psychiatry
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The social milieu provides the context for the organisms survival, endurance, and adaptation. In mammals, social participation originates within the parent-infant bond and is supported by the oxytocin (OT) system, whose functioning is transmitted from parent to child through patterns of parental care. Human studies indicate that OT administration increases affiliative behavior, including trust, empathy, and social reciprocity. Here, we examine whether OT administration to parent can enhance physiological and behavioral processes that support parental social engagement but, moreover, can have parallel effects on the infant.
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Intranasal oxytocin administration is reflected in human saliva.
Psychoneuroendocrinology
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Following the discovery that intranasal administration of neuropeptides can reach the central nervous system, a growing number of studies applied intranasal oxytocin (OT) paradigms to demonstrate the positive effects of OT on social and emotional processes. The three-step paradigm typically included: OT administration, a 45-min waiting period, and approximately 1-h period of active drug effects when experimental manipulations are applied. Yet, this schedule has not been put to systematic validation. Utilizing a double-blind placebo-control within-subject design, ten individuals were administered OT or placebo and salivary OT was measured ten times, at baseline and nine times over four consecutive hours. OT administration induced substantial increases in salivary OT across the entire period. OT rose dramatically 15 min after administration (from 6.9 pg/ml at baseline to 1265.4 pg/ml), reached plateau at 45-120 min (range=131.6 and 105.3 pg/ml), and did not return to baseline by 4h. Results contribute to discussion on brain-periphery coordination of OT and highlight the need for further research on the temporal dynamics and durations of OT administration effects.
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Sensitive parenting is associated with plasma oxytocin and polymorphisms in the OXTR and CD38 genes.
Biol. Psychiatry
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Research in mammals has demonstrated the involvement of oxytocin (OT) in social bond formation; yet, its role in human bonding remains unclear. Plasma OT has been used as a proxy for central activity and studies indicate its association with human affiliative behaviors. Molecular genetic studies also reveal a role for OT neuropathways in shaping the social brain. However, the links between peripheral OT, genetic markers, and their combined contribution to human parenting are unknown.
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Prenatal ultrasound screening: false positive soft markers may alter maternal representations and mother-infant interaction.
PLoS ONE
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In up to 5% of pregnancies, ultrasound screening detects a "soft marker" (SM) that places the foetus at risk for a severe abnormality. In most cases, prenatal diagnostic work-up rules out a severe defect. We aimed to study the effects of false positive SM on maternal emotional status, maternal representations of the infant, and mother-infant interaction.
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Oxytocin and social affiliation in humans.
Horm Behav
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A conceptual model detailing the process of bio-behavioral synchrony between the online physiological and behavioral responses of attachment partners during social contact is presented as a theoretical and empirical framework for the study of affiliative bonds. Guided by an ethological behavior-based approach, we suggest that micro-level social behaviors in the gaze, vocal, affective, and touch modalities are dynamically integrated with online physiological processes and hormonal response to create dyad-specific affiliations. Studies across multiple attachments throughout life are presented and demonstrate that the extended oxytocin (OT) system provides the neurohormonal substrate for parental, romantic, and filial attachment in humans; that the three prototypes of affiliation are expressed in similar constellations of social behavior; and that OT is stable over time within individuals, is mutually-influencing among partners, and that mechanisms of cross-generation and inter-couple transmission relate to coordinated social behavior. Research showing links between peripheral and genetic markers of OT with concurrent parenting and memories of parental care; between administration of OT to parent and infants physiological readiness for social engagement; and between neuropeptides and the online synchrony of maternal and paternal brain response in social-cognitive and empathy networks support the hypothesis that human attachment develops within the matrix of biological attunement and close behavioral synchrony. The findings have conceptual implications for the study of inter-subjectivity as well as translational implications for the treatment of social disorders originating in early childhood, such as autism spectrum disorders, or those associated with disruptions to early bonding, such as postpartum depression or child abuse and neglect. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and Social Behavior.
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Oxytocin during the initial stages of romantic attachment: relations to couples interactive reciprocity.
Psychoneuroendocrinology
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Romantic relationships can have a profound effect on adults health and well-being whereas the inability to maintain intimate bonds has been associated with physical and emotional distress. Studies in monogamous mammalian species underscore the central role of oxytocin (OT) in pair-bonding and human imaging studies implicate OT-rich brain areas in early romantic love. To assess the role of OT in romantic attachment, we examined plasma OT in 163 young adults: 120 new lovers (60 couples) three months after the initiation of their romantic relationship and 43 non-attached singles. Twenty-five of the 36 couples who stayed together were seen again six months later. Couples were observed in dyadic interactions and were each interviewed regarding relationship-related thoughts and behaviors. OT was significantly higher in new lovers compared to singles, F(1,152)=109.33, p<.001, which may suggest increased activity of the oxytocinergic system during the early stages of romantic attachment. These high levels of OT among new lovers did not decrease six months later and showed high individual stability. OT correlated with the couples interactive reciprocity, including social focus, positive affect, affectionate touch, and synchronized dyadic states, and with anxieties and worries regarding the partner and the relationship, findings which parallel those described for parent-infant bonding. OT levels at the first assessment differentiated couples who stayed together six months later from those who separated during this period. Regression analysis showed that OT predicted interactive reciprocity independent of sex, relationship duration, and the partners OT. Findings suggest that OT may play an important role at the first stages of romantic attachment and lend support to evolutionary models suggesting that parental and romantic attachment share underlying bio-behavioral mechanisms.
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