Maternal Attachment Representation and Neurophysiological Processing during the Perception of Infants' Emotional Expressions.PLoS One. 2016; 11(2):e0147294.Plos
The perception of infant emotions is an integral part of sensitive caregiving within the mother-child relationship, a maternal ability which develops in mothers during their own attachment history. In this study we address the association between maternal attachment representation and brain activity underlying the perception of infant emotions. Event related potentials (ERPs) of 32 primiparous mothers were assessed during a three stimulus oddball task presenting negative, positive and neutral emotion expressions of infants as target, deviant or standard stimuli. Attachment representation was assessed with the Adult Attachment Interview during pregnancy. Securely attached mothers recognized emotions of infants more accurately than insecurely attached mothers. ERPs yielded amplified N170 amplitudes for insecure mothers when focusing on negative infant emotions. Secure mothers showed enlarged P3 amplitudes to target emotion expressions of infants compared to insecure mothers, especially within conditions with frequent negative infant emotions. In these conditions, P3 latencies were prolonged in insecure mothers. In summary, maternal attachment representation was found associated with brain activity during the perception of infant emotions. This further clarifies psychological mechanisms contributing to maternal sensitivity.