Becoming a parent represents an important developmental period within adulthood. We are interested in understanding the neural correlates of parenting using EEG/ERP and we collaborate with colleagues in the Department of Psychiatry for complimentary assessments using fMRI. We are examining parenting across the postpartum period, and many of our mothers attend visits at 3 months and then 6 months postpartum. We also take saliva samples during the visits so we can assess changes in oxytocin levels and whether this predicts neural responses in our paradigms. Outside of Yale, our collaborators in these studies are Drs. Josephine Johns (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and Lane Strathearn (Baylor College of Medicine).
Currently we are focusing on two key areas in our parenting program of research:
- Maternal sensitivity to infant cues In these studies we explore neural sensitivity to infant cues of affect. Our stimuli include both infant cries (varying in distress levels) and photographs of infant faces (varying in expression). In addition to exploring individual differences within mothers and how this affects sensitivity to infant cues, we are also assessing whether maternal substance use influences perception of infant affect.
- Maternal emotion regulation Here we are assessing the neural correlates of emotion regulation in mothers and non-mothers when viewing photographs of infants in different emotional states. We are interested in whether the neurobiological and experiential changes in becoming a parent facilitate more effective emotion regulation strategies.