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Psychodyn Psychiatry. 2017 Winter;45(4):475-498. doi: 10.1521/pdps.2017.45.4.475.

Attachment Figure's Regulation of Infant Brain and Behavior.

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Emotional Brain Institute, The Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Child Study Center, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York University Langone Medical Center.


Altricial infants (i.e., requiring parental care for survival), such as humans and rats, form an attachment to their caregiver and receive the nurturing and protections needed for survival. Learning has a strong role in attachment, as is illustrated by strong attachment formed to non-biological caregivers of either sex. Here we summarize and integrate results from animal and human infant attachment research that highlights the important role of social buffering (social presence) of the stress response by the attachment figure and its effect on infant processing of threat and fear through modulation of the amygdala. Indeed, this work suggests the caregiver switches off amygdala function in rodents, although recent human research suggests a similar process in humans and nonhuman primates. This cross-species analysis helps provide insight and unique understanding of attachment and its role in the neurobiology of infant behavior within attachment.


amygdala; attachment; infant; learning; locus coeruleus; mother; mother–infant dyad; norepinephrine; stress

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