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Crying baby draws blunted response in depressed mom's brain
Date:2/22/2011

their own babies' cries were seen on both sides of the brain's lateral paralimbic areas and core limbic sub-cortical regions including the striatum, thalamus and midbrain; depressed mothers showed no unique response to their babies. Non-depressed mothers activated much more strongly than depressed mothers in a subcortical cluster involving the striatum -- specifically the caudate and nucleus accumbens -- and the medial thalamus. These areas are closely associated with the processing of rewards and motivation.

"In this context it was interesting to see that the non-depressed mothers were able to respond to this cry sound as a positive cue," Laurent said. "Their response was consistent with wanting to approach their infants. Depressed mothers were really lacking in that response. "

In a separate comparison, mothers who self-reported that they were more depressed at the time of their fMRI sessions displayed diminished prefrontal brain activity, particularly in the anterior cingulate cortex, when hearing their own baby's cries. This brain region, Laurent said, is associated with the abilities to evaluate information and to plan and regulate a response to emotional cues.

The important message of the study, Ablow and Laurent said, is that depression can exert long-lasting effects on mother-infant relationships by blunting the mother's response to her infant's emotional cues.

"A mother who is able to process and act upon relevant information will have more sensitive interactions with her infant, which, in turn, will allow the infant to develop its own regulation capacities," Ablow said. "Some mothers are unable to respond optimally to their infant's emotional cues. A mother's emotional response requires a coordination of multiple cortical and sub-cortical systems of the brain. How that plays out has not been well known."

The findings may suggest new implications for treating depression symptoms in mothers, Laurent said. "Some
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Contact: Jim Barlow
jebarlow@uoregon.edu
541-346-3481
University of Oregon
Source:Eurekalert  

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