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Christine Parsons

Evidence for a Caregiving Instinct: Rapid Differentiation of Infant from Adult Vocalizations Using Magnetoencephalography

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

DOI

  • Katherine S Young, Section of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark Department of Psychology.
  • ,
  • Christine E Parsons
  • Else-Marie Jegindoe Elmholdt, Section of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford Oxford, UK ; Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University Aarhus, Denmark.
  • ,
  • Mark W Woolrich, Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity (OHBA), University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.
  • ,
  • Tim J van Hartevelt, Section of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford Oxford, UK ; Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University Aarhus, Denmark.
  • ,
  • Angus B A Stevner
  • Alan Stein, Section of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry Wits/MRC Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt), School of Public Health, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • ,
  • Morten L Kringelbach

Crying is the most salient vocal signal of distress. The cries of a newborn infant alert adult listeners and often elicit caregiving behavior. For the parent, rapid responding to an infant in distress is an adaptive behavior, functioning to ensure offspring survival. The ability to react rapidly requires quick recognition and evaluation of stimuli followed by a co-ordinated motor response. Previous neuroimaging research has demonstrated early specialized activity in response to infant faces. Using magnetoencephalography, we found similarly early (100-200 ms) differences in neural responses to infant and adult cry vocalizations in auditory, emotional, and motor cortical brain regions. We propose that this early differential activity may help to rapidly identify infant cries and engage affective and motor neural circuitry to promote adaptive behavioral responding, before conscious awareness. These differences were observed in adults who were not parents, perhaps indicative of a universal brain-based "caregiving instinct."

Original languageEnglish
JournalCerebral Cortex
Volume26
Issue3
Pages (from-to)1309-21
Number of pages13
ISSN1047-3211
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016

    Research areas

  • Acoustic Stimulation, Adult, Auditory Perception, Awareness, Brain, Caregivers, Crying, Evoked Potentials, Female, Humans, Infant, Magnetoencephalography, Male, Neuropsychological Tests, Pattern Recognition, Physiological, Time, Young Adult, Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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