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Adult attachment predicts maternal brain and oxytocin response to infant cues

Strathearn, L; Fonagy, P; Amico, J; Montague, PR; (2009) Adult attachment predicts maternal brain and oxytocin response to infant cues. Neuropsychopharmacology , 34 (13) 2655 - 2666. 10.1038/npp.2009.103. Green open access

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Abstract

Infant cues, such as smiling or crying facial expressions, are powerful motivators of human maternal behavior, activating dopamine-associated brain reward circuits. Oxytocin, a neurohormone of attachment, promotes maternal care in animals, although its role in human maternal behavior is unclear. We examined 30 first-time new mothers to test whether differences in attachment, based on the Adult Attachment Interview, were related to brain reward and peripheral oxytocin response to infant cues. On viewing their own infant's smiling and crying faces during functional MRI scanning, mothers with secure attachment showed greater activation of brain reward regions, including the ventral striatum, and the oxytocin-associated hypothalamus/pituitary region. Peripheral oxytocin response to infant contact at 7 months was also significantly higher in secure mothers, and was positively correlated with brain activation in both regions. Insecure/dismissing mothers showed greater insular activation in response to their own infant's sad faces. These results suggest that individual differences in maternal attachment may be linked with development of the dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine systems. Neuropsychopharmacology (2009) 34, 2655-2666; doi:10.1038/npp.2009.103; published online 26 August 2009

Type: Article
Title: Adult attachment predicts maternal brain and oxytocin response to infant cues
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/npp.2009.103
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/npp.2009.103
Language: English
Additional information: This is the authors' accepted version of this published article.
Keywords: attachment, mother-infant relations, dopamine, oxytocin, functional MRI, insula, female prairie voles, individual-differences, negative affect, behavior, humans, rat, representations, reward, plasma, neurobiology
UCL classification: UCL
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
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/141284
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