fNIRS responses to emotional faces in 5- and 7-month-old infants.

The influence of maternal anxiety and depression symptoms on fNIRS brain responses to emotional faces in 5- and 7-month-old infants.

Greater relative right (versus left) frontal cortical activation to emotional faces as measured with alpha power in the electroencephalogram (EEG), has been considered a promising neural marker of increased vulnerability to psychopathology and emotional disorders. We set out to explore multichannel fNIRS as a tool to investigate infants’ frontal asymmetry responses (hypothesizing greater right versus left frontal cortex activation) to emotional faces as influenced by maternal anxiety and depression symptoms during the postnatal period. We also explored activation differences in fronto-temporal regions associated with facial emotion processing. Ninety-one typically developing 5- and 7-month-old infants were shown photographs of women portraying happy, fearful and angry expressions. Hemodynamic brain responses were analyzed over two frontopolar and seven bilateral cortical regions subdivided into frontal, temporal and parietal areas, defined by age-appropriate MRI templates. Infants of mothers reporting higher negative affect had greater oxyhemoglobin (oxyHb) activation across all emotions over the left inferior frontal gyrus, a region implicated in emotional communication. Follow-up analyses indicated that associations were driven by maternal depression, but not anxiety symptoms. Overall, we found no support for greater right versus left frontal cortex activation in association with maternal negative affect. Findings point to the potential utility of fNIRS as a method for identifying altered neural substrates associated with exposure to maternal depression in infancy.

PMID: 32305734 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

Infant Behav Dev. 2020 Apr 16;59:101447

Authors: Porto JA, Bick J, Perdue KL, Richards JE, Nunes ML, Nelson CA




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