This study investigated depression-related differences in primiparous mothers' neural response to their own infant's distress cues. Mothers diagnosed with major depressive disorder (n = 11) and comparison mothers with no diagnosable psychopathology (n = 11) were exposed to their own 18-months-old infant's cry sound, as well as unfamiliar infant's cry and control sound, during functional neuroimaging. Depressed mothers' response to own infant cry greater than other sounds was compared to non-depressed mothers' response in the whole brain [false discovery rate (FDR) corrected]. A continuous measure of self-reported depressive symptoms (CESD) was also tested as a predictor of maternal response. Non-depressed mothers activated to their own infant's cry greater than control sound in a distributed network of para/limbic and prefrontal regions, whereas depressed mothers as a group failed to show activation. Non-depressed compared to depressed mothers showed significantly greater striatal (caudate, nucleus accumbens) and medial thalamic activation. Additionally, mothers with lower depressive symptoms activated more strongly in left orbitofrontal, dorsal anterior cingulate and medial superior frontal regions. Non-depressed compared to depressed mothers activated uniquely to own infant greater than other infant cry in occipital fusiform areas. Disturbance of these neural networks involved in emotional response and regulation may help to explain parenting deficits in depressed mothers.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience