Maternal perinatal anxiety and neural responding to infant affective signals: Insights, challenges, and a road map for neuroimaging research

Tal Yatziv, Emily A. Vancor, Madison Bunderson, Helena J.V. Rutherford

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Anxiety symptoms are common among women during pregnancy and the postpartum period, potentially having detrimental effects on both mother and child's well-being. Perinatal maternal anxiety interferes with a core facet of adaptive caregiving: mothers’ sensitive responsiveness to infant affective communicative ‘cues.’ This review summarizes the current research on the neural correlates of maternal processing of infant cues in the presence of perinatal anxiety, outlines its limitations, and offers next steps to advance future research. Functional neuroimaging studies examining the neural circuitry involved in, and electrophysiological studies examining the temporal dynamics of, processing infant cues during pregnancy and postpartum are reviewed. Studies have generally indicated mixed findings, although emerging themes suggest that anxiety may be implicated in several stages of processing infant cues— detection, interpretation, and reaction— contingent upon cue valence. Limitations include inconsistent designs, lack of differentiation between anxiety and depression symptoms, and limited consideration of parenting-specific (versus domain-general) anxiety. Future studies should incorporate longitudinal investigation of multiple levels of analysis spanning neural, cognitive, and observed aspects of sensitive caregiving.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-399
Number of pages13
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Volume131
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • EEG/ERP
  • Infant cues
  • Maternal sensitivity
  • Perinatal maternal anxiety
  • fMRI
  • fNIRS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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