Mother brain is wired for social moments

Ortal Shimon-Raz, Roy Salomon, Miki Bloch, Gabi Aisenberg Romano, Yaara Yeshurun, Adi Ulmer-Yaniv, Orna Zagoory-Sharon, Ruth Feldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reorganization of the maternal brain upon childbirth triggers species-typical maternal social behavior. These brief social moments carry profound effects on the infant’s brain and likely have distinct signature in the maternal brain. Utilizing a double-blind, within-subject oxytocin/placebo administration crossover design, mothers’ brain was imaged twice using fMRI while observing three naturalistic maternal-infant contexts in the home ecology; ‘unavailable’, ‘unresponsive’, and ‘social’, when mothers engaged in synchronous peek-a-boo play. The social condition elicited greater neural response across the human caregiving network, including amygdala, VTA, hippocampus, insula, ACC, and temporal cortex. Oxytocin impacted neural response primarily to the social condition and attenuated differences between social and non-social stimuli. Greater temporal consistency emerged in the ‘social’ condition across the two imaging sessions, particularly in insula, amygdala, and TP. Findings describe how mother’s brain varies by caregiving experiences and gives salience to moments of social synchrony that support infant social development and brain maturation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere59436
StatePublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, eLife Sciences Publications Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Adult
  • Brain/diagnostic imaging
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mothers/psychology
  • Neuroimaging
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Social Interaction
  • Young Adult

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Neuroscience


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