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Report: Depressed Mothers Less Responsive to Babies

According to a new study that appeared in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, mothers suffering from depression showed less response to crying babies than non-depressed mothers.

Through brain scans of new mothers who were suffering from depression, it was discovered that brain activity patterns were muted compared with the healthy activity that non-depressed mothers experienced.  

Apparently, when responding to the sounds of their babies crying, the brains of non-depressed mothers was active in multiple regions including but not limited to the lateral paralimbic areas, striatum, thalamus and midbrain. Depressed mothers, on the other hand, showed no responses in those particular areas.

Essentially, health, non-depressed mothers showed more willingness to approach their infants.

According to Heidemarie Laurent, the assistant professor at the University of Wyoming, the study goes a long way in showing the different ways that depression can influence response by babies’ mothers.

In order to come to their conclusions, researchers analyzed the brain activity of 22 women utilizing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). All of the mothers involved had just had their first child, all of whom were only 18 months old.

Mothers who were diagnosed as depressed showed diminished brain activity, particularly when the baby was crying.

Jennifer C. Ablow, the professor of psychology at the University of Oregon notes that the way mothers respond to their children crying can have serious influences on the way the baby develops.

"Some mothers are unable to respond optimally to their infants' emotional cues," Ablow said.

"Some of these prefrontal problems may be changed more easily by addressing current symptoms, but there may be deeper, longer-lasting deficits at the motivational levels of the brain that will take more time to overcome."  

The next step for researchers will be following around soon-to-be mothers who are pregnant, and documenting how their brain responses formulate.

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