The brain basis of human parenting behavior is poorly understood and a functional brain imaging assay such as measuring brain activity with listening to infant cries (caretaking elicitors) might be very helpful in understanding its brain basis. Thus far, we have analyzed results of 3 functional MRI (fMRI) studies in 4, 10, and 40 mothers listening to infant cries, the first two with standard cries minus non-cry control sounds (Lorberbaum et al 1999,2002), and the third with own minus standard infant cries (3 year Child Neglect RFA grant R-01 NS040259 entitled """"""""An fMRI Study Of Healthy Mothers Hearing Infant Cries"""""""" now in its no cost extension year and which we label Mother-Cry). This work suggests that brain regions important in rodent maternal behavior also activate when human mothers hear infant cries. This includes the medial preoptic area / ventral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (MPOA/VBNST) region and its connections to the amygdala, hypothalamus, septal region, midbrain, and the midbrain's projections to the dopaminergic approach pathways that include the striatum, thalamocingulate / medial prefrontal cortex, and lateral paralimbic belt structures (orbitofrontal cortex-insula-temporal pole). We call these regions the """"""""maternal brain circuitry."""""""" In this R-03 grant we call Father-Cry, we aim to determine fMRI brain activity differences in fathers and mothers hearing their own infant's cries minus standard infant's cries. As rodent paternal behavior appears to involve similar brain regions to that of maternal behavior, we expect fathers will show increased maternal brain circuit activity, but mothers will show even greater maternal brain circuit activity. Fathers are 14 age-matched husbands of 14 breastfeeding mothers from Mother-Cry. All subjects have completed the study. Fathers' fMRI scans were donated as a university grant-in-kind. We request R-03 funds to perform the Father-Cry data analysis. Parents were recruited at pregnancy week 32 where they were judged psychiatrically and physically healthy and filled out parental-fetal attachment scales. At 5-8 weeks postpartum, parents filled but temperament ratings and ratings of their relationship with their mate and child. They also had their fMRI brain activity measured in response to their own and infant cries, and other controls sounds. Fathers are the perpetrators in 38% of child maltreatment cases. One cannot assume that the neurocircuits of maternal and paternal behavior are the same. Understanding their similarities and differences will help us further lay the groundwork for studying the brain basis of neglectful and abusive parenting and illnesses in which social bonding may be impaired including autism, postpartum depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Pediatrics Subcommittee (CHHD)
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Freund, Lisa S
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Pennsylvania State University
Schools of Medicine
United States
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