Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Mar 15;51(6):431-45.

A potential role for thalamocingulate circuitry in human maternal behavior.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina 29425, USA.



Little is known about the regional brain basis of human maternal behavior. To understand this better, we have been examining brain activity in mothers listening to infant cries.


We measured functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging brain activity in healthy, breastfeeding first-time mothers with young infants while they listened to infant cries, white noise control sounds, and a rest condition. Based on the thalamocingulate theory of maternal behavior and pilot work, we hypothesized that the cingulate, medial thalamus, medial prefrontal cortex, and right orbitofrontal cortex would display more activity with infant cries than with white noise (comparison 1) and would uniquely activate with the cries, meaning that these regions would display activity with cry minus rest but not with white noise minus rest (comparison 2).


In hypothesized regions, the group displayed more activity in the medial thalamus, medial prefrontal and right orbitofrontal cortices with both comparisons. The anterior and posterior cingulate cortex displayed more activity only with comparison 1. In non-hypothesized brain regions, several other structures thought important in rodent maternal behavior displayed activity with both comparisons including the midbrain, hypothalamus, dorsal and ventral striatum, and vicinity of the lateral septal region.


Our results partially support our hypotheses and are generally consistent with neuroanatomical studies of rodent maternal behavior.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk