Maternal brain in the process of maternal-infant bonding: Review of the literature

Soc Neurosci. 2020 Aug;15(4):380-384. doi: 10.1080/17470919.2020.1764093. Epub 2020 May 21.


The mother-infant relationship is one of the most important bonds among all mammals and develops when a mother shows emotional and physical attention toward her infant. Studies suggest that maternal brain alterations, including structural and functional changes, may help mothers to form a strong bond with their infant. Investigation of mothers' unique response to her own infant, when smiling, crying or playing, could be the first step to uncover the neural bases of maternal-infant bonding. Studies are beginning to explore maternal brain changes underlying the process of mother-infant bonding. In this short review, we present an overview of the growing literature about maternal brain changes and neural responses to infant stimuli, which may underlie the process of forming the maternal-infant bond in healthy, non-clinical samples. Taken together, the maternal brain network consists mostly of areas related to salience/reward and emot processing, including the precuneus cortex, medial frontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, caudate and nucleus accumbens, amygdala, and insula. Recommendations for future research are also discussed.

Keywords: Maternal-infant bonding; infant; maternal brain; neural changes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Maternal Behavior / physiology*
  • Mother-Child Relations*