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Mothers with substance addictions show reduced reward responses when viewing their own infant's face

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Sohye Kim, Udita Iyengar, Linda C. Mayes, Marc N. Potenza, Helena J.V. Rutherford, Lane Strathearn

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5421-5439
Number of pages19
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number11
Early online date26 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

King's Authors


Maternal addiction constitutes a major public health problem affecting children, with high rates of abuse, neglect, and foster care placement. However, little is known about the ways in which substance addiction alters brain function related to maternal behavior. Prior studies have shown that infant face cues activate similar dopamine-associated brain reward regions to substances of abuse. Here, we report on a functional MRI study documenting that mothers with addictions demonstrate reduced activation of reward regions when shown reward-related cues of their own infants. Thirty-six mothers receiving inpatient treatment for substance addiction were scanned at 6 months postpartum, while viewing happy and sad face images of their own infant compared to those of a matched unknown infant. When viewing happy face images of their own infant, mothers with addictions showed a striking pattern of decreased activation in dopamine- and oxytocin-innervated brain regions, including the hypothalamus, ventral striatum, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex—regions in which increased activation has previously been observed in mothers without addictions. Our results are the first to demonstrate that mothers with addictions show reduced activation in key reward regions of the brain in response to their own infant's face cues. Hum Brain Mapp 38:5421–5439, 2017.

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