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Maternology: When a Baby is Born, a Mother is Born José Luis Díaz-Rossello and Annabel Ferreira-Castro NeoReviews 2008;9;e326-e331 DOI: 10.1542/neo.9-8-e326

The online version of this article, along with updated information and services, is located on the World Wide Web at:;9/8/e326

NeoReviews is the official journal of theAmerican Academy of Pediatrics. A monthly publication, it has been published continuously since 2000. NeoReviews is owned, published, and trademarked by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 141 Northwest Point Boulevard, Elk Grove Village, Illinois, 60007. Copyright © 2008 by the American Academy of Pediatrics. All rights reserved. Online ISSN: 1526-9906.

Downloaded from by Jose Diaz-Rossello on August 1, 2008

Article neurobiology

a Mother is Born
Jose Luis Dıaz-Rossello, ´ ´ MD,* Annabel FerreiraCastro, PhD

When a Baby is Born,

Neonates are potent incentive stimuli who regulate the mother’s ability and motivation to engage in costly care-taking activities during a most vulnerable period of their early life.Laboratory animal studies as well as functional neuroimaging in human mothers have shown that the medial preoptic area of the hypothalamus and its projections to the mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic system regulate the motivational aspects of maternal behavior. Peripartum hormonal changes acting in these brain areas enhance the reinforcing value of the newborns and promote in the mother the highlymotivated behavior observed immediately after parturition. A better understanding of the neural mechanisms that regulate the motivational aspects of maternal behavior can help to increase awareness of the importance of the early maternal/parental-infant interaction as well as to identify possible biological factors that underlie anomalies in human maternal behavior.

Author Disclosure DrsDıaz-Rossello and ´ Ferreira-Castro have disclosed no financial relationships relevant to this article. This commentary does not contain a discussion of an unapproved/ investigative use of a commercial product/ device.

The birth of an infant produces a strong altruistic emotional surge in every adult involved in the event, and the most powerful changes occur in the mother. In this period,she becomes totally focused on caring for her baby to the exclusion of everything else. Such early preoccupations and feelings allow the mother to anticipate the infant’s needs, learn its particular features, receive and respond to its signals, and ultimately develop a close bond with her baby. Donald Winnicot named it “primary maternal preoccupation.” (1) Consequently, although puerperal changes inpostpartum mothers return their bodies to preconceptional status, after having their first children, women find themselves different and frequently say that their child has changed them forever. When a baby is born a mother is born! Several evolutionary reasons underlie these maternal changes. The newborn is autonomous only in its ability to breath, suck, and swallow; otherwise, he or she istotally dependent on maternal care for survival. Therefore, it makes evolutionary sense for the mother to develop specific behaviors and thoughts that focus her attention on the infant through a very long period of dependency. For the infant, the reciprocity and dependency with a fully dedicated, highly responsive mother provides essential stimuli for the development of the brain, the establishment ofrhythms of activity and sleep, and the formation of motivational systems that promote the interpersonal communication and language. (2) Lack of early and continuous parental care is extreme in orphanages. Observational studies show that the quality of support and care given to infants in the early months has a significant effect on brain development and behavior and learning later in life....