The relation of general socio-emotional processing to parenting specific behavior: a study of mothers with and without posttraumatic stress disorder.
ABSTRACT: Socio-emotional information processing during everyday human interactions has been assumed to translate to social-emotional information processing when parenting a child. Yet, few studies have examined whether this is indeed the case. This study aimed to improve on this by connecting the functional neuroimaging data when seeing socio-emotional interactions that are not parenting specific to observed maternal sensitivity. The current study considered 45 mothers of small children (12-42 months of age). It included healthy controls (HC) and mothers with interpersonal violence-related posttraumatic stress disorder (IPV-PTSD), as well as mothers without PTSD, both with and without IPV exposure. We found that anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) activity correlated negatively with observed maternal sensitivity when mothers watched videos of menacing vs. prosocial adult male-female interactions. This relationship was independent of whether mothers were HC or had IPV-PTSD. We also found dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) activity to be correlated negatively with maternal sensitivity when mothers watched any kind of arousing adult interactions. With regards to ACC and vmPFC activity, we interpret our results to mean that the ease of general emotional information integration translates to parenting-specific behavior. Our dlPFC activity findings support the idea that the efficiency of top-down control of socio-emotional processing in non-parenting specific contexts may be predictive of parenting behavior.
Project description:The aim of this study was to examine the relationship of maternal interpersonal violence-related posttraumatic stress disorder (IPV-PTSD), associated neural activity in response to mother-child relational stimuli, and child psychopathology indicators at child ages 12-42 months and one year later. The study tested the hypothesis that decreased maternal neural activity in regions that subserve emotion regulation would be associated with child symptoms associated with emotional dysregulation at both time points. Functional magnetic resonance imaging of 42 mothers with or without violence-exposure and associated IPV-PTSD were assessed. Their child's life-events and symptoms/behaviors indicative of high-risk subsequent PTSD diagnosis on a maternal-report questionnaire were measured one year later. Maternal IPV-PTSD severity was significantly associated with decreased ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) activation in response to mother-child relational stimuli. Maternal IPV-PTSD severity and decreased vmPFC activation were then significantly associated with a child attachment disturbance at 12-42 months and symptoms/behaviors one year later, that were correlated with emotional dysregulation and risk for child PTSD. Maternal IPV-PTSD and child exposure to IPV were both predictive of child PTSD symptoms with maternal IPV-PTSD likely mediating the effects of child IPV exposure on child PTSD symptoms. These findings suggest that maternal IPV-PTSD severity and associated decreased vmPFC activity in response to mother-child relational stimuli are predictors of child psychopathology by age 12-42 months and one-year later. Significant findings in this paper may well be useful in understanding how maternal top-down cortico-limbic dysregulation promotes intergenerational transmission of IPV and related psychopathology and, thus should be targeted in treatment.
Project description:Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that involves impaired regulation of the fear response to traumatic reminders. This study tested how women with male-perpetrated interpersonal violence-related PTSD (IPV-PTSD) differed in their brain activation from healthy controls (HC) when exposed to scenes of male-female interaction of differing emotional content. Sixteen women with symptoms of IPV-PTSD and 19 HC participated in this study. During magnetic resonance imaging, participants watched a stimulus protocol of 23 different 20 s silent epochs of male-female interactions taken from feature films, which were neutral, menacing or prosocial. IPV-PTSD participants compared with HC showed (i) greater dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) activation in response to menacing vs prosocial scenes and (ii) greater anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), right hippocampus activation and lower ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) activty in response to emotional vs neutral scenes. The fact that IPV-PTSD participants compared with HC showed lower activity of the ventral ACC during emotionally charged scenes regardless of the valence of the scenes suggests that impaired social perception among IPV-PTSD patients transcends menacing contexts and generalizes to a wider variety of emotionally charged male-female interactions.
Project description:It is known that increased circulating glucocorticoids in the wake of excessive, chronic, repetitive stress increases anxiety and impairs Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) signaling. Recent studies of BDNF gene methylation in relation to maternal care have linked high BDNF methylation levels in the blood of adults to lower quality of received maternal care measured via self-report. Yet the specific mechanisms by which these phenomena occur remain to be established. The present study examines the link between methylation of the BDNF gene promoter region and patterns of neural activity that are associated with maternal response to stressful versus non-stressful child stimuli within a sample that includes mothers with interpersonal violence-related PTSD (IPV-PTSD). 46 mothers underwent fMRI. The contrast of neural activity when watching children-including their own-was then correlated to BDNF methylation. Consistent with the existing literature, the present study found that maternal BDNF methylation was associated with higher levels of maternal anxiety and greater childhood exposure to domestic violence. fMRI results showed a positive correlation of BDNF methylation with maternal brain activity in the anterior cingulate (ACC), and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), regions generally credited with a regulatory function toward brain areas that are generating emotions. Furthermore we found a negative correlation of BDNF methylation with the activity of the right hippocampus. Since our stimuli focus on stressful parenting conditions, these data suggest that the correlation between vmPFC/ACC activity and BDNF methylation may be linked to mothers who are at a disadvantage with respect to emotion regulation when facing stressful parenting situations. Overall, this study provides evidence that epigenetic signatures of stress-related genes can be linked to functional brain regions regulating parenting stress, thus advancing our understanding of mothers at risk for stress-related psychopathology.
Project description:Prior research has shown that mothers with Interpersonal violence-related posttraumatic stress disorder (IPV-PTSD) report greater difficulty in parenting their toddlers. Relative to their frequent early exposure to violence and maltreatment, these mothers display dysregulation of their hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA-axis), characterized by hypocortisolism. Considering methylation of the promoter region of the glucocorticoid receptor gene NR3C1 as a marker for HPA-axis functioning, with less methylation likely being associated with less circulating cortisol, the present study tested the hypothesis that the degree of methylation of this gene would be negatively correlated with maternal IPV-PTSD severity and parenting stress, and positively correlated with medial prefrontal cortical (mPFC) activity in response to video-stimuli of stressful versus non-stressful mother-child interactions. Following a mental health assessment, 45 mothers and their children (ages 12-42 months) participated in a behavioral protocol involving free-play and laboratory stressors such as mother-child separation. Maternal DNA was extracted from saliva. Interactive behavior was rated on the CARE-Index. During subsequent fMRI scanning, mothers were shown films of free-play and separation drawn from this protocol. Maternal PTSD severity and parenting stress were negatively correlated with the mean percentage of methylation of NR3C1. Maternal mPFC activity in response to video-stimuli of mother-child separation versus play correlated positively to NR3C1 methylation, and negatively to maternal IPV-PTSD and parenting stress. Among interactive behavior variables, child cooperativeness in play was positively correlated with NR3C1 methylation. Thus, the present study is the first published report to our knowledge, suggesting convergence of behavioral, epigenetic, and neuroimaging data that form a psychobiological signature of parenting-risk in the context of early life stress and PTSD.
Project description:This study tested whether mothers with interpersonal violence-related posttraumatic stress disorder (IPV-PTSD) vs healthy controls (HC) would show greater limbic and less frontocortical activity when viewing young children during separation compared to quiet play. Mothers of 20 children (12-42 months) participated: 11 IPV-PTSD mothers and 9 HC with no PTSD. During fMRI, mothers watched epochs of play and separation from their own and unfamiliar children. The study focused on comparison of PTSD mothers vs HC viewing children in separation vs play, and viewing own vs unfamiliar children in separation. Both groups showed distinct patterns of brain activation in response to viewing children in separation vs play. PTSD mothers showed greater limbic and less frontocortical activity (BA10) than HC. PTSD mothers also reported feeling more stressed than HC when watching own and unfamiliar children during separation. Their self-reported stress was associated with greater limbic and less frontocortical activity. Both groups also showed distinct patterns of brain activation in response to viewing their own vs unfamiliar children during separation. PTSD mothers' may not have access to frontocortical regulation of limbic response upon seeing own and unfamiliar children in separation. This converges with previously reported associations of maternal IPV-PTSD and atypical caregiving behavior following separation.
Project description:Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often complicated by the after-effects of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). The mixture of brain conditions results in abnormal affective and cognitive functioning, as well as maladaptive behavior. To better understand how brain activity explains cognitive and emotional processes in these conditions, we used an emotional N-back task and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study neural responses in US military veterans after deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, we sought to examine whether hierarchical dimensional models of maladaptive personality could account for the relationship between combat-related brain conditions and fMRI responses under cognitive and affective challenge. FMRI data, measures of PTSD symptomatology (PTSS), blast-induced mTBI (bmTBI) severity, and maladaptive personality (MMPI-2-RF) were gathered from 93 veterans. Brain regions central to emotion regulation were selected for analysis, and consisted of bilateral amygdala, bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal (dlPFC), and ventromedial prefrontal/subgenual anterior cingulate (vmPFC-sgACC). Cognitive load increased activity in dlPFC and reduced activity in emotional responding brain regions. However, individuals with greater PTSS showed blunted deactivations in bilateral amygdala and vmPFC-sgACC, and weaker responses in right dlPFC. Additionally, we found that elevated emotional/internalizing dysfunction (EID), specifically low positive emotionality (RC2), accounted for PTSS-related changes in bilateral amygdala under increased cognitive load. Findings suggest that PTSS might result in amygdala and vmPFC-sgACC activity resistant to moderation by cognitive demands, reflecting emotion dysregulation despite a need to marshal cognitive resources. Anhedonia may be an important target for interventions that improve the affective and cognitive functioning of individuals with PTSD.
Project description:Children of parents who experienced trauma often present emotional and behavioral problems, a phenomenon named inter-generational transmission of trauma (IGTT). Combined with antenatal factors, parenting and the home environment contribute to the development and maintenance of sleep problems in children. In turn, infant sleep difficulty predicts behavioral and emotional problems later in life. The aim of this study was to investigate whether infant sleep problems predict early behavioral problems indicative of IGTT.184 first-time mothers (ages 18-47) participated. N=83 had a history of childhood abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD+); 38 women reported childhood abuse but did not meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD (PTSD-); and the control group (N=63) had neither a history of abuse nor psychopathology (CON). Depression, anxiety, and sleep difficulty were assessed in the mothers at 4 months postpartum. Infant sleep was assessed using the Child Behavior Sleep Questionnaire (CSHQ). Outcome measures included the Parent Bonding Questionnaire (PBQ) at 4 months and the Child Behavior Check List (CBCL) at 18 months.Infants of PTSD+ mothers scored higher on the CSHQ and had more separation anxiety around bedtime than PTSD- and CON, and the severity of their symptoms was correlated with the degree of sleep disturbance. Maternal postpartum depression symptoms mediated impaired mother-infant bonding, while infant sleep disturbance contributed independently to impaired bonding. Mother-infant bonding at 4 months predicted more behavioral problems at 18 months.Infant sleep difficulties and maternal mood play independent roles in infant-mother bonding disturbance, which in turn predicts behavioral problems at 18 months.
Project description: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.
Project description:Women who abuse illicit drugs often engage in atypical parenting behaviors that interfere with the natural development of mother-infant interaction and attachment. Maternal caregiving deficits leave pronounced adverse consequences in the wake of drug abuse relapse, which often occurs and in early infancy. These are times when the child requires optimal parental care. The contemporary literature documents long-term implications of illicit drug-abuse in parenting on infants. However, factors that drive and sustain the influence of drug abuse on parent-infant outcomes remain elusive. This review adopts a biopsychosocial approach to synthesizing the existing state of knowledge on this issue. Mother-infant interaction is a dynamic socio-relational process that occurs at multiple levels of organization. As such, a biopsychosocial perspective enables us to uncover: (i) roles of specific physiological mechanisms and biological characteristics of atypical parenting in mothers who abuse drugs, (ii) the influence of drugs on maternal psychological state (i.e., beliefs regarding parenting practices, emotional regulation), and (iii) social relationships (i.e., relationships with spouse and other drug abusers) and contextual cues (i.e., triggers) that moderate non-optimal maternal caregiving. A comprehensive review of these key domains provides a nuanced understanding of how these several sources interdependently shape atypical parent-infant interaction amongst drug abusing mothers. Systematic elucidation of major factors underlying drug-abused maternal behaviors facilitates the development of targeted and more effective interventions.
Project description:Background:Violence and other adversities commonly co-occur, yet are usually investigated individually. The primary objectives of this paper are to investigate: (i) the relationship between maternal exposure to violence (including childhood abuse and intimate partner violence) and postpartum mental and physical health; and (ii) the extent to which exposure to violence and poor maternal mental and physical health are associated with children's emotional-behavioral difficulties. Methods:Prospective pregnancy cohort (n?=?1507) followed up to 4?year postpartum. Validated measures used: Composite Abuse Scale; Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, SF-36, Child Maltreatment History Self Report; Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Logistic regression was used to investigate associations between maternal childhood abuse, intimate partner violence (IPV), maternal health and child emotional and behavioral difficulties at age 4. Outcomes:Two out of five women (41%) reported abuse in childhood, and almost one in three (29%) reported IPV during the first four years of motherhood. Women reporting both physical and sexual childhood abuse had markedly raised odds of IPV and poor physical and mental health at all time points (pregnancy, first year postpartum and four year postpartum). For the index child, violence exposures (maternal childhood abuse or IPV) and poor maternal physical or mental health were associated with higher odds of emotional/behavioral difficulties at age four. In multivariable models (adjusted for child gender and maternal age), cumulative exposures (multiple violence exposures or poor maternal mental or physical health at multiple time points) each independently added to increased odds of emotional-behavioral difficulties. Children of mothers who reported a history of childhood abuse but were not exposed to IPV had odds of difficulties similar to children of mothers not reporting any violence exposure, suggesting resilient outcomes where violence experiences are not repeated in the next generation. Interpretation:The clustering of risk (child and adult violence experiences) and the accumulation of risk within families (IPV, poor maternal health, child difficulties) highlight the need for effective early intervention to limit or ameliorate the impact of violence across the lifespan, and to break the intergenerational cycle of disadvantage.