Depressed moms respond sluggishly to bawling babies

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WASHINGTON - Depressed mothers are sluggish in responding to their crying babies, says a new study.

Their reaction, according to brain scans at the University of Oregon, is much more muted than the robust brain activity in non-depressed moms.

An infant crying is normal, but how mothers respond can affect a child’s development, says Jennifer C. Ablow, professor of psychology at Oregon.

For years, Ablow has studied the relationship of behaviour and physiological responses such as heart rate and respiration of mothers, both depressed and not, when they respond to their infants’ crying, according to an Oregon statement.

The brains of a group of women were scrutinized using functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience reports.

Non-invasive FMRI, when focused on the brain, measures blood flow changes, producing detailed images that provide scientists with information about brain activity or help medical staff diagnose disease.

Researchers considered both group differences between women with chronic histories of

depression and those with no clinical diagnoses. All were first time mothers whose babies were 18-month-old.

The important message, Ablow and Heidemarie K. Laurent, assistant professor at the University of Wyoming, said, is that depression can exert long-lasting effects on mother-infant relationships by blunting the mother’s response to her infant’s cues.

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