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Maternal oxytocin response predicts mother-to-infant gaze

Kim, S; Fonagy, P; Koos, O; Michael, K; Strathearn, L; (2013) Maternal oxytocin response predicts mother-to-infant gaze. Brain Research 10.1016/j.brainres.2013.10.050. Green open access

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Abstract

The neuropeptide oxytocin is importantly implicated in the emergence and maintenance of maternal behavior that forms the basis of the mother-infant bond. However, no research has yet examined the specific association between maternal oxytocin and maternal gaze, a key modality through which the mother makes social contact and engages with her infant. Furthermore, prior oxytocin studies have assessed maternal engagement primarily during episodes free of infant distress, while maternal engagement during infant distress is considered to be uniquely relevant to the formation of secure mother-infant attachment. Two patterns of maternal gaze, maternal gaze toward and gaze shifts away from the infant, were micro-coded while 50 mothers interacted with their 7-month-old infants during a modified still-face procedure. Maternal oxytocin response was defined as a change in the mother's plasma oxytocin level following interaction with her infant as compared to baseline. The mother's oxytocin response was positively associated with the duration of time her gaze was directed toward her infant, while negatively associated with the frequency with which her gaze shifted away from her infant. Importantly, mothers who showed low/average oxytocin response demonstrated a significant decrease in their gaze toward their infants during periods of infant distress, while such change was not observed in mothers with high oxytocin response. The findings underscore the involvement of oxytocin in regulating the mother's responsive engagement with her infant, particularly in times when the infant's need for access to the mother is greatest.

Type: Article
Title: Maternal oxytocin response predicts mother-to-infant gaze
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.brainres.2013.10.050
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.brainres.2013.10.050
Language: English
Keywords: Distress, Engagement, Mother-to-infant gaze, Mothering, Oxytocin
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1422578
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