Maternal anxiety and neural responses to infant faces

Academic Article


  • © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Background Women may be especially vulnerable to anxiety during the postpartum period and early infancy. However, little is known regarding the potential impact of maternal anxiety on the neural processing of infant-relevant information.Methods In this ERP study, 47 recent mothers viewed neutral and distressed infant faces, concurrent with EEG collection. We examined the N170 as a perceptual marker of face processing and the late positive potential (LPP) as an index of engagement with stimulus processing. Mothers also completed the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory.Results While the N170 was unaffected by infant affect and anxiety levels, the LPP was greater in amplitude for distressed vs. neutral faces. Moreover, the degree of LPP amplitude elicited by neutral infant faces was positively correlated with state anxiety. There were no associations between anxiety and the LPP elicited by distressed infant faces.Limitations We employed self-report measures of state and trait anxiety symptomatology and including diagnostic classification of anxiety disorders will be important in future research.Conclusions These results indicate that recent mothers with higher levels of state anxiety may be more engaged with processing neutral infant cues.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Malak SM; Crowley MJ; Mayes LC; Rutherford HJV
  • Start Page

  • 324
  • End Page

  • 330
  • Volume

  • 172