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Processing of infant emotion in mothers with mood disorders and implications for infant development

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 April 2021

Anne J. Bjertrup
Affiliation:
Copenhagen Affective Disorders Research Center (CADIC), Psychiatric Centre Copenhagen, Mental Health Services, Capital Region of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Mala Moszkowicz
Affiliation:
Child- and Adolescent Mental Health Center, Infant Psychiatric Unit, Mental Health Services, Capital Region of Denmark, Glostrup, Denmark Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Ida Egmose
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Center for Early Intervention and Family Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Anette Kjærbye-Thygesen
Affiliation:
Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Hvidovre Hospital, Denmark
René E. Nielsen
Affiliation:
Psychiatry – Aalborg University Hospital, Aalborg, Denmark Department of Clinical Medicine, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark
Christine E. Parsons
Affiliation:
Department of Clinical Medicine, Interacting Minds Center, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
Lars V. Kessing
Affiliation:
Copenhagen Affective Disorders Research Center (CADIC), Psychiatric Centre Copenhagen, Mental Health Services, Capital Region of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Anne Katrine Pagsberg
Affiliation:
Child- and Adolescent Mental Health Center, Infant Psychiatric Unit, Mental Health Services, Capital Region of Denmark, Glostrup, Denmark Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Mette S. Væver
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Center for Early Intervention and Family Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Kamilla W. Miskowiak*
Affiliation:
Copenhagen Affective Disorders Research Center (CADIC), Psychiatric Centre Copenhagen, Mental Health Services, Capital Region of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
*
Author for correspondence: Kamilla W. Miskowiak, E-mail: kamilla@miskowiak.dk

Abstract

Background

Atypical neurocognitive responses to emotional stimuli are core features of unipolar depression (UD) and bipolar disorder (BD). For mothers with these mood disorders, this may influence interactions with their infants and consequently infant development. The study aimed to investigate psychophysiological and cognitive responses to infant emotional stimuli, and their relation to mother–infant interaction and infant development, in mothers with BD or UD in full or partial remission.

Methods

Four months after birth, mothers' cognitive responses to emotional infant stimuli were assessed with computerized tasks, while their facial expressions, galvanic skin responses (GSR), gazes, and fixations were recorded. Infant development and mother–infant interactions were also assessed.

Results

We included 76 mothers: 27 with BD, 13 with UD, and 36 without known psychiatric disorders, and their infants. Mothers with BD and UD were in full or partial remission and showed blunted GSR and spent less time looking at infant stimuli (unadjusted p values < 0.03). Mothers with BD showed subtle positive neurocognitive biases (unadjusted p values<0.04) and mothers with UD showed negative biases (unadjusted p values < 0.02). Across all mothers, some measures of atypical infant emotion processing correlated with some measures of delays in infant development and suboptimal mother–infant interaction (unadjusted p values<0.04).

Conclusions

Mothers with mood disorders in full or partial remission showed atypical cognitive and psychophysiological response to emotional infant stimuli, which could be associated with mother–infant interactions and infant development. The study is explorative, hypothesis generating, and should be replicated in a larger sample. Investigation of the long-term implications of reduced maternal sensitivity is warranted.

Type
Original Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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