Synchrony and the neurobiology of human attachments; How the brain basis of love fosters empathy, stress management, and resilience
Synchrony – the coordination of biological and behavioral processes between children and their caregivers during moments of social contact – provides the basis for social connectedness and charts a central process in the development of stress management, empathy, and the development of the “affiliative brain”.
In this talk, I will present our model on the neurobiology of human attachments in relation to the oxytocin system – the hormone system related to social bonding, and sometimes called the “love hormone.” This presentation will detail how the oxytocin system evolved to support the expression of synchrony at the genetic, brain, hormonal, and behavioral levels and how the mother-infant bond provides the neurobiological template for all other social affiliations throughout life: with fathers, close friends, romantic partners, and fellow-humans.
Next, I will present our research on the parental brain, addressing similarities and differences between the maternal and the paternal brain, and discuss how the human parental brain supports the development of socio-emotional competencies and the social brain in children, charting the cross-generational transmission of affiliation that enables humans to love, care, and adapt a life of meaning.
Finally, I will present findings from three cohorts of families who represent high-risk contexts, each followed from infancy to young adulthood, and demonstrate how disruptions to maternal-infant bonding, in contexts such as premature birth, maternal post-partum depression, and chronic trauma, impact children’s brain and behavior. The talk will conclude with vignettes from a new intervention that help depressed mothers synchronize with their infants and minimize the level of intrusive behavior and by addressing the implications of our model for debates about mind-brain polarity.
At the end of the talk, participants will be able to
- Understand how the parent’s brain develops during the transition to parenthood and why it is important
- Learn about the role of oxytocin, the love hormone, in initiating the bond between parents and infants and how this bond develops through synchronous interaction to support resilience from infancy to adulthood
- Know about the specific disruptions to the neurobiology of affiliation and caregiving behavior that characterize depressed mothers and potential avenues for treatment
Ruth Feldman, PhD is the Simms-Mann Professor of Developmental Social Neuroscience at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzlia in Tel Aviv. She holds a joint appointment at Yale Child Study Center. Dr. Feldman holds degrees in music composition, neuroscience, clinical psychology, and developmental psychology and psychopathology. Her conceptual model on biobehavioral synchrony systematically describes how a lived experience within close relationships builds brain, creates relationships, confers resilience, and promotes creativity. Her studies were the first to detail the role of oxytocin in the formation of human social bonds.