Maternal sensitivity predicts anterior hippocampal functional networks in early childhood

Abstract

Maternal care influences child hippocampal development. The hippocampus is functionally organized along an anterior–posterior axis. Little is known with regards to the extent maternal care shapes offspring anterior and posterior hippocampal (aHPC, pHPC) functional networks. This study examined maternal behavior, especially maternal sensitivity, at 6 months postpartum in relation to aHPC and pHPC functional networks of children at age 4 and 6 years. Maternal sensitivity was assessed at 6 months via the “Maternal Behavior Q Sort (MBQS) mini for video”. Subsequently, 61 and 76 children underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI), respectively, at 4 and 6 years of age. We found that maternal sensitivity assessed at 6 months postpartum was associated with the right aHPC functional networks in children at both 4 and 6 years of age. At age 4 years, maternal sensitivity was associated positively with the right aHPC’s functional connectivity with the sensorimotor network and negatively with the aHPC’s functional connectivity with the top–down cognitive control network. At 6 years of age, maternal sensitivity was linked positively with the right aHPC’s functional connectivity with the visual-processing network. Our findings suggested that maternal sensitivity in infancy has a long-term impact on the anterior hippocampal functional network in preschool children, implicating a potential role of maternal care in shaping child brain development in early life.

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Funding

This research is supported by the Singapore National Research Foundation under its Translational and Clinical Research (TCR) Flagship Programme and administered by the Singapore Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council (NMRC), Singapore- NMRC/TCR/004-NUS/2008; NMRC/TCR/012-NUHS/2014. Additional funding is provided by the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore Ministry of Education (Academic research fund tier 1; NUHSRO/2017/052/T1-SRP-Partnership/01), and NUS Institute of Data Science, Singapore.

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Wang, Q., Zhang, H., Wee, C. et al. Maternal sensitivity predicts anterior hippocampal functional networks in early childhood. Brain Struct Funct 224, 1885–1895 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-019-01882-0

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Keywords

  • Resting-state fMRI
  • Maternal sensitivity
  • Anterior hippocampus
  • Posterior hippocampus
  • Functional networks