King's College London

Research portal

Mother-infant interactions and regional brain volumes in infancy: an MRI study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Vaheshta Sethna, Ines Pote, Siying Wang, Maria Gudbrandsen, Anna Blasi, Caroline McCusker, Eileen Daly, Emily Perry, Kerrie P. H. Adams, Maria Kuklisova-Murgasova, Paula Busuulwa, Sarah Lloyd-Fox, Lynne Murray, Mark H. Johnson, Steven C. R. Williams, Declan G. M. Murphy, Michael C. Craig, Grainne M. McAlonan

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2379-2388
JournalBrain structure & function
Volume222
Issue number5
Early online date3 Dec 2016
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2017

Documents

King's Authors

Abstract

It is generally agreed that the human brain is responsive to environmental influences, and that the male brain may be particularly sensitive to early adversity. However, this is largely based on retrospective studies of older children and adolescents exposed to extreme environments in childhood. Less is understood about how normative variations in parent–child interactions are associated with the development of the infant brain in typical settings. To address this, we used magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the relationship between observational measures of mother–infant interactions and regional brain volumes in a community sample of 3- to 6-month-old infants (N = 39). In addition, we examined whether this relationship differed in male and female infants. We found that lower maternal sensitivity was correlated with smaller subcortical grey matter volumes in the whole sample, and that this was similar in both sexes. However, male infants who showed greater levels of positive communication and engagement during early interactions had smaller cerebellar volumes. These preliminary findings suggest that variations in mother–infant interaction dimensions are associated with differences in infant brain development. Although the study is cross-sectional and causation cannot be inferred, the findings reveal a dynamic interaction between brain and environment that may be important when considering interventions to optimize infant outcomes.

Download statistics

No data available

View graph of relations

© 2018 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454