Preliminary genetic imaging study of the association between estrogen receptor-α gene polymorphisms and harsh human maternal parenting

Neurosci Lett. 2012 Sep 6;525(1):17-22. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2012.07.016. Epub 2012 Jul 20.


A failure of neural changes initiated by the estrogen surge in late pregnancy to reverse the valence of infant stimuli from aversive to rewarding is associated with dysfunctional maternal behavior in nonhuman mammals. Estrogen receptor-α plays the crucial role in mediating these neural effects of estrogen priming. This preliminary study examines associations between estrogen receptor-α gene polymorphisms and human maternal behavior. Two polymorphisms were associated with human negative maternal parenting. Furthermore, hemodynamic responses in functional magnetic resonance imaging to child stimuli in neural regions associated with social cognition fully mediated the association between genetic variation and negative parenting. This suggests testable hypotheses regarding a biological pathway between genetic variants and dysfunctional human maternal parenting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain Mapping
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Neurological
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha