Maternal Depression Across Child’s Early Years Impacts Neural Basis of Empathy

Summary: Children whose mothers experienced depression early in their life are more susceptable to socio-emotional problems and a reduction in empathy toward others, a new study reports.

Source: Elsevier.

Exposure to early and chronic maternal depression markedly increases a child’s susceptibility to psychopathology and social-emotional problems, including social withdrawal, poor emotion regulation, and reduced empathy to others. Since 15-18% of women in industrial societies and up to 30% in developing countries suffer from maternal depression, it is of clinical and public health concern to understand the effects of maternal depression on children’s development. A study published in the January 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) followed children of mothers with depression from birth to preadolescence and tested depression’s impact on children’s neural empathic response to others’ distress.

While previous studies have demonstrated the effects of maternal depression on children’s limited response to other’s pain, this new study is the first to examine this topic in a longitudinal sample of mother-child pairs followed from birth to age 11. This carefully selected sample of women with no comorbid contextual risk, who were repeatedly assessed for maternal depression across the first years of life, was utilized in order to compare children of mothers who were chronically depressed and children who were never exposed to any maternal psychopathology. 27 children of mothers with depression took part in the study, as well as 45 controls. They were home-visited at 9 months and 6 years to examine mother-child interaction patterns and were invited to a magnetoencephalography (MEG) session at age 11 in order to evaluate their neural reaction to pain in others.

“We were amazed to see that maternal depression in and of itself was related to differential neural processing of others’ pain in 11-year-old children. We found that the neural reaction to pain in children of depressed mothers stops earlier than in controls, in an area related to socio-cognitive processing, so that children of depressed mothers seem to reduce mentalizing-related processing of others’ pain, perhaps because of difficulty in regulating the high arousal associated with observing distress in others,” said Prof. Ruth Feldman, director of the Developmental Social Neuroscience Lab and the Irving B. Harris Early Childhood Community Clinic at Bar-Ilan University and lead author of the study.

The researchers also found that mother-child interaction patterns had a crucial role on this effect. When mother-child interactions were more synchronous, that is, mother and child were better attuned to one another, and when mothers were less intrusive, children showed higher mentalizing-related processing in this crucial brain area.

Image shows a crying woman.

“It is encouraging to see the role of mother-child interactions in our findings. Depressed mothers are repeatedly found to show less synchronous and more intrusive interactions with their children, and so it might explain some of the differences found between children of depressed mothers and their peer controls in our study,” added Prof. Feldman. “If so, our findings highlight a point of entry, where future interventions can focus their attention to help reduce the effects of maternal depression on children’s psychosocial development.”

Asked what next steps should be taken, Feldman responded: “The main clinical question now becomes: what strategies are most effective to improve mother-child interaction patterns for depressed mothers and their offspring. Moreover, if we are able to help these mothers be more attuned and less intrusive, will it be enough in order to enable resilience in the offspring? In addition, there are further scientific questions about the manner in which patterns of maternal care implement in the development of children’s brain, endocrine systems, behavior, and relationships.”

To that end, Feldman and her team are studying how maternal depression and mother-child interactions are associated with children’s stress hormones, behavioral empathy, hormones related to bond formation, and their neural reaction to affiliative cues. Feldman is planning to study intervention strategies that focus on the mother-child interaction pattern, and is hopeful that if successful, these strategies will improve mental health and social adjustment in children of mothers with depression. “Wouldn’t it be interesting and promising if an intervention focused on synchronous mother-child interactions could also reduce the prevalence of psychopathology in the children of depressed mothers?” she concluded.

ABOUT THIS GENETICS RESEARCH ARTICLE

Source: Mary Billingsley – Elsevier
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “Maternal Depression Across the First Years of Life Impacts the Neural Basis of Empathy in Preadolescence” by Maayan Pratt, MA, Abraham Goldstein, PhD, Jonathan Levy, PhD, Ruth Feldman, PhD in Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Published online January 3 2017 doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2016.10.012

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Abstract

Maternal Depression Across the First Years of Life Impacts the Neural Basis of Empathy in Preadolescence

Objective
Exposure to maternal depression across the first years of life markedly increases children’s susceptibility to psychopathology, yet no study has tested its effects on the maturation of children’s social brain.

Method
Using a birth cohort of mothers with no contextual risk (N = 1,983), families were followed at 7 time points from birth to 11 years and repeatedly assessed for maternal depression across the first 6 years to form 2 cohorts: mothers continuously depressed from birth to 6 years and controls without depression. At 11 years of age, children’s (n = 72; depressed, n = 27; nondepressed, n = 45) brain response to others’ pain was measured by magnetoencephalography.

Results
Preadolescents displayed a unique oscillatory pattern with higher alpha power to pain versus no pain expressing as alpha rebound, not alpha suppression, at a late time window (1,100–1,300 ms post-stimulus) in the supplementary motor area. This suggests that top-down processing in areas of the pain matrix can underpin the maturation of vicarious empathy. Children of mothers with depression showed enhanced alpha rebound to pain in the right posterior superior temporal gyrus, which was unrelated to emotion detection abilities, pointing to decreased late processing of others’ overwhelming experiences in socio-cognitive areas. Alpha power in the posterior superior temporal gyrus was predicted by higher maternal intrusiveness and lower synchrony across early childhood.

Conclusion
These findings, from the first study to examine maternal depression and early caregiving as long-term predictors of children’s neural empathic response, pinpoint a decrease in top-down socio-cognitive mechanisms as potential pathways for the cross-generational transfer of vulnerability from mothers with depression to their offspring and highlight the need for early interventions focused on enhancing maternal attunement.

“Maternal Depression Across the First Years of Life Impacts the Neural Basis of Empathy in Preadolescence” by Maayan Pratt, MA, Abraham Goldstein, PhD, Jonathan Levy, PhD, Ruth Feldman, PhD in Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Published online January 3 2017 doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2016.10.012

Antisocial Personality Disorder Symptoms

Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of a disregard for other people’s rights, often crossing the line and violating those rights. It usually begins in childhood or as a teen and continues into their adult lives.

Antisocial personality disorder is often referred to as psychopathy or sociopathy in popular culture. However, neither psychopathy nor sociopathy are recognized professional labels used for diagnosis.

Individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder frequently lack empathy and tend to be callous, cynical, and contemptuous of the feelings, rights, and sufferings of others. They may have an inflated and arrogant self-appraisal (e.g., feel that ordinary work is beneath them or lack a realistic concern about their current problems or their future) and may be excessively opinionated, self-assured, or cocky. They may display a glib, superficial charm and can be quite voluble and verbally facile (e.g., using technical terms or jargon that might impress someone who is unfamiliar with the topic).

Lack of empathy, inflated self-appraisal, and superficial charm are features that have been commonly included in traditional conceptions of psychopathy and may be particularly distinguishing of Antisocial Personality Disorder in prison or forensic settings where criminal, delinquent, or aggressive acts are likely to be nonspecific. These individuals may also be irresponsible and exploitative in their sexual relationships.

A personality disorder is an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates from the norm of the individual’s culture. The pattern is seen in two or more of the following areas: cognition; affect; interpersonal functioning; or impulse control. The enduring pattern is inflexible and pervasive across a broad range of personal and social situations. It typically leads to significant distress or impairment in social, work or other areas of functioning. The pattern is stable and of long duration, and its onset can be traced back to early adulthood or adolescence.

Symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial personality disorder is diagnosed when a person’s pattern of antisocial behavior has occurred since age 15 (although only adults 18 years or older can be diagnosed with this disorder) and consists of the majority of these symptoms:

  • Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest
  • Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure
  • Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead
  • Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults
  • Reckless disregard for safety of self or others
  • Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations
  • Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another

There should also be evidence of Conduct Disorder in the individual as a child, whether or not it was ever formally diagnosed by a professional.

Because personality disorders describe long-standing and enduring patterns of behavior, they are most often diagnosed in adulthood. It is uncommon for them to be diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, because a child or teen is under constant development, personality changes and maturation. According to the DSM-5, antisocial personality disorder cannot be diagnosed in people younger than 18 years old.

Antisocial personality disorder is 70 percent more prevalent in males than females. The 12-month prevalence rate of this disorder is between 0.2 and 3.3 percent.

Like most personality disorders, antisocial personality disorder typically will decrease in intensity with age, with many people experiencing few of the most extreme symptoms by the time they are in the 40s or 50s.

Source: http://psychcentral.com/disorders/antisocial-personality-disorder-symptoms/

Psychopaths can feel no empathy as shown by their brain tests

Psychopaths are usually described as lacking empathy, and a new study reveals the neurological basis for this dearth of feeling.

When people with psychopathy imagine others experiencing pain, brain regions associated with empathy and concern for others fail to activate or connect with brain areas involved in emotional processing and decision-making, researchers report.

In addition to a lack of remorse, psychopathy is characterized by shallow affect, glibness, manipulation and callousness. The rate of psychopathy is about 23 percent in prisons, compared with about 1 percent in the general population, research shows. [The 9 Most Bizarre Medical Conditions]

To investigate the neurological roots of the disorder, researchers studied 121 inmates at a medium-security prison in the United States. The inmates were divided into highly psychopathic, moderately psychopathic and weakly psychopathic groups on the basis of a widely used diagnostic tool called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised.

Researchers scanned the brains of the participants while showing them images depicting physical pain, such as a finger getting caught in a door or a toe caught under a heavy object. The participants were told to imagine the accident happening to themselves or to someone else. They were also shown images of neutral ojects, such as a hand on a doorknob.

When the highly psychopathic individuals imagined the accidents happening to themselves, their brains lit up in the anterior insula, the anterior midcingulate cortex, the somatosensory cortex and the right amygdala — all areas involved in empathy. The response was quite pronounced, suggesting psychopathic individuals were sensitive to thoughts of pain.

But when the highly psychopathic inmates imagined the accident happening to others, their brains failed to light up in the regions associated with empathy. In fact, an area involved in pleasure, the ventral striatum, lit up instead. Furthermore, these individuals showed abnormal connectivity between the insula and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, an area important for empathetic decision-making.

By contrast, the less psychopathic individuals showed more normal brain activation and connectivity in these areas.

The strange patterns of brain activation and connectivity in highly psychopathic individuals suggest they did not experience empathy when imagining the pain of others, and possibly took pleasure in it.

The findings could help inform intervention programs for psychopathy, the researchers say. Having psychopathic people imagine themselves in pain first could be used in cognitive behavior therapies as a way of kick-starting empathy, they wrote in the study detailed today (Sept. 24) in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

In fact, past research has shown psychopaths can feel empathy, when explicitly asked to, suggesting this ability to understand another person’s feelings may be repressed rather than missing entirely in psychopathic individuals.

 

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Life Book by Becky Fabella

  1. Drink plenty of water.

2.       Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.
3.       Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is not manufactured by plants.
4.       Live with the 3 Es — Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.
5.       Make time to practice meditation, yoga, and prayer.
6.       Play more games.
7.       Read more books than you did in 2012.
8.       Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.
9.       Sleep for 7 hours.
10.    Take a 10-30 minutes walk every day. And while you walk, smile.

Personality:

11.    Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
12.    Don’t have negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
13.    Don’t over do. Keep your limits.
14.    Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
15.    Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip.
16.    Dream more while you are awake.
17.    Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
18.    Forget issues of the past. Don’t remind your partner with his/her mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.
19.    Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don’t hate others.
20.    Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.
21.    No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
22.    Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
23.    Smile and laugh more.
24.    You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

Society:

25.    Call your family often.
26.    Each day give something good to others.
27.    Forgive everyone for everything.
28..    Spend time with people over the age of 70 & under the age of 6.
29.    Try to make at least three people smile each day.
30.    What other people think of you is none of your business.
31.    Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

Life:

32.    Do the right thing!
33.    Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
34.    GOD heals everything.
35.    However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
36.    No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
37.    The best is yet to come.
38.    When you awake alive in the morning, thank GOD for it.
39.    Your Inner most is always happy. So, be happy.

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