Document Detail

Maternal neglect: oxytocin, dopamine and the neurobiology of attachment.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  21951160     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Maternal neglect, including physical and emotional neglect, is a pervasive public health challenge with serious long-term effects on child health and development. I provide an overview of the neurobiological basis of maternal caregiving, aiming to better understand how to prevent and respond to maternal neglect. Drawing from both animal and human studies, key biological systems are identified that contribute to maternal caregiving behaviour, focusing on the oxytocinergic and dopaminergic systems. Mesocorticolimbic and nigrostriatal dopamine pathways contribute to the processing of infant-related sensory cues leading to a behavioural response. Oxytocin may activate the dopaminergic reward pathways in response to social cues. Human neuroimaging studies are summarised that demonstrate parallels between animal and human maternal caregiving responses in the brain. By comparing different patterns of human adult attachment, we gain a clearer understanding of how differences in maternal brain and endocrine responses may contribute to maternal neglect. For example, in insecure/dismissing attachment, which may be associated with emotional neglect, we see reduced activation of the mesocorticolimbic dopamine reward system in response to infant face cues, as well as decreased peripheral oxytocin response to mother-infant contact. We are currently testing whether the administration of intranasal oxytocin, as part of a randomised placebo controlled trial, may reverse some of these neurological differences, and potentially augment psychosocial and behavioural interventions for maternal neglect.
L Strathearn
Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural; Review    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Journal of neuroendocrinology     Volume:  23     ISSN:  1365-2826     ISO Abbreviation:  J. Neuroendocrinol.     Publication Date:  2011 Nov 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2011-10-18     Completed Date:  2012-02-10     Revised Date:  2014-09-17    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  8913461     Medline TA:  J Neuroendocrinol     Country:  England    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  1054-65     Citation Subset:  IM    
Copyright Information:
© 2011 The Author. Journal of Neuroendocrinology © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
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MeSH Terms
Child Abuse*
Dopamine / physiology*
Oxytocin / physiology*
Grant Support
P0 DA022446/DA/NIDA NIH HHS; P01 DA022446/DA/NIDA NIH HHS; P01 DA022446-03/DA/NIDA NIH HHS; R01 DA026437/DA/NIDA NIH HHS; R01 DA026437-01A2/DA/NIDA NIH HHS; R01 HD065819/HD/NICHD NIH HHS; R01 HD065819-01/HD/NICHD NIH HHS; R01DA026437/DA/NIDA NIH HHS; R01HD065819/HD/NICHD NIH HHS
Reg. No./Substance:
50-56-6/Oxytocin; VTD58H1Z2X/Dopamine

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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