Frontal lobe activity and affective behavior of infants of mothers with depressive symptoms

Child Dev. 1992 Jun;63(3):725-37.


Studies of adults and infants indicate that the left frontal brain region is specialized for approach emotions, such as joy, whereas the right frontal region is specialized for withdrawal emotions, such as distress. Furthermore, depressed adults have been found to show reduced brain activity in the left frontal region. In this study, frontal and parietal electroencephalographic (EEG) activity was recorded from 27 infants aged 11-17 months (13 of whose mothers reported elevated depressive symptoms) during baseline and emotion-eliciting conditions. Compared with infants of nonsymptomatic mothers, infants of symptomatic mothers exhibited reduced left frontal brain activity during playful interactions with their mothers and failed to exhibit the typical pattern of greater right frontal activity during a condition designed to elicit distress (maternal separation). Infants of symptomatic mothers also showed less distress during maternal separation; however, no group differences in behavior were found during the playful condition. Group differences were evident in the frontal region, but not in parietal brain activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology*
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Parietal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Verbal Behavior / physiology