Parental Reflective Functioning correlates to brain activation in response to video-stimuli of mother–child dyads: Links to maternal trauma history and PTSD

Dominik Andreas Moser, Francesca Suardi, Ana Sancho Rossignol, Marylène Vital, Aurélia Manini, Sandra Rusconi Serpa, Daniel Scott Schechter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Parental Reflective Functioning is a parent's capacity to infer mental states in herself and her child. Parental Reflective Functioning is linked to the quality of parent-child attachment and promotes parent-child mutual emotion regulation. We examined neural correlates of parental reflective functioning and their relationship to physical abuse. Participants were mothers with (n = 26) and without (n = 22) history of childhood physical abuse. Parental reflective functioning was assessed by coding transcripts of maternal narrative responses on interviews. All mothers also underwent magnetic resonance imaging while watching video clips of children during mother–child separation and play. Parental reflective functioning was significantly lower among mothers with histories of childhood physical abuse. When mothers without history of childhood physical abuse watched scenes of separation versus play, brain activation was positively correlated with parental reflective functioning in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and negatively associated with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and insula. These associations were not present when limiting analyses to mothers reporting abuse histories. Regions subserving emotion regulation and empathy were associated with parental reflective functioning; yet these regions were not featured in maltreated mothers. These data suggest that childhood physical abuse exposure may alter the psychobiology that is linked to emotional comprehension and regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110985
JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
Volume293
DOIs
StatePublished - 30 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Child maltreatment
  • Cortico-limbic regulation
  • PTSD
  • Parental Reflective Functioning
  • fMRI

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