Neurobiology of Infant Crying:
Integrating genes, brain, behavior, and environment
Infants cry to seek and maintain their caregiver’s proximity and care. Caregivers also instinctively seek and respond to their infants crying. These early caregiver-infant interactions give rise to caregiver-infant attachment, which influences physiological and psychological processes by modulating brain sensitivity. Furthermore, the attachment between caregiver and infant influences infants’ cognitive and socio-emotional development, and subsequently the development of social, familial, and romantic relationships later in life. Successful attachment with a caregiver provides infants with optimal relational experiences that may also improve infants’ interactions with their external social environment later in development.
Caregiver-infant attachment shapes neural pathways involved in socio-emotional regulation. These patterns of socio-emotional regulation are thought to remain relatively stable over an individual’s lifetime, suggesting important links between early caregiver-infant attachment and health related physiological processes (e.g. stress) and vulnerability to risk-factors (e.g. the body’s capacity for managing stress-related metabolic demands). Attachment formation is influenced by multiple systems, including environmental factors, such as prenatal chemical signals from the mother to the fetal brain, as well as parenting and genetic factors, such as vulnerability to risk-factors and temperament. Current approaches to the study of caregiver-infant attachment should consider its multi-level nature.
We would like to invite empirical studies (either longitudinal or cross-sectional) as well as review and perspective papers that focus on either human or non-human mammals. Studies should investigate how genetic, hormonal, behavioural, environmental, prenatal and postnatal factors, as well as cultural contexts, regulate early interactional experiences, and how these experiences translate into relational patterns of attachment later in life.
Gianluca Esposito, PhD
Affiliative Behaviour and Physiology Lab, Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science, University of Trento, Trento, Italy
Social and Affective Neuroscience Lab, Division of Psychology, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore
Margarete Bolten, MD, PhD
Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinic
University of Basel, Switzerland
Kazuyuki Shinohara, MD, PhD
Department of Neurobiology & Behavior, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Nagasaki University, Japan
Paola Venuti, PhD
Observation and Functional Diagnosis Lab, Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science, University of Trento, Trento, Italy