Heidemarie K. Laurent, assistant professor at the University of Wyoming, who led the study as a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Jennifer C. Ablow, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, examined brain activity of depressed women responding to recordings of crying infants, either their own or someone else's.
The brains of 22 first-time mothers whose babies were 18 months old were scrutinized using functional magnetic resonance imaging.
The study found that as a group, brain responses in non-depressed mothers listening to their own babies' cries were seen on both sides of the brain's lateral paralimbic areas and core limbic sub-cortical regions, including the striatum, thalamus and midbrain. Depressed mothers showed no unique response to their babies.
The study's findings were published online in advance of the print edition of the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.