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Title: Brain responses to emotional infant faces in new mothers and nulliparous women
Authors: Zhang, Kaihua
Rigo, Paola
Su, Xueyun
Wang, Mengxing
Chen, Zhong
Esposito, Gianluca
Putnick, Diane L.
Bornstein, Marc H.
Du, Xiaoxia
Keywords: Social sciences::Psychology
Issue Date: 2020
Source: Zhang, K., Rigo, P., Su, X., Wang, M., Chen, Z., Esposito, G., . . . Du, X. (2020). Brain responses to emotional infant faces in new mothers and nulliparous women. Scientific Reports, 10(1),9560-. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-66511-x
Journal: Scientific Reports 
Abstract: The experience of motherhood is one of the most salient events in a woman's life. Motherhood is associated with a series of neurophysiological, psychological, and behavioral changes that allow women to better adapt to their new role as mothers. Infants communicate their needs and physiological states mainly through salient emotional expressions, and maternal responses to infant signals are critical for infant survival and development. In this study, we investigated the whole brain functional response to emotional infant faces in 20 new mothers and 22 nulliparous women during functional magnetic resonance imaging scans. New mothers showed higher brain activation in regions involved in infant facial expression processing and empathic and mentalizing networks than nulliparous women. Furthermore, magnitudes of the activation of the left parahippocampal gyrus and the left fusiform gyrus, recruited during facial expression processing, were positively correlated with empathic concern (EC) scores in new mothers when viewing emotional (happy-sad) faces contrasted to neutral faces. Taken together, these results indicate that the experience of being a mother affects human brain responses in visual and social cognitive brain areas and in brain areas associated with theory-of-mind related and empathic processing.
ISSN: 2045-2322
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-66511-x
Rights: © 2020 The Author(s). This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. Te images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
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