In this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study we examined neural processing of infant faces associated with a happy or a sad temperament in nulliparous women. We experimentally manipulated adult perception of infant temperament in a probabilistic learning task. In this task, participants learned about an infant's temperament through repeated pairing of the infant face with positive or negative facial expressions and vocalizations. At the end of the task, participants were able to differentiate between “mostly sad” infants who cried often and “mostly happy” infants who laughed often. Afterwards, brain responses to neutral faces of infants with a happy or a sad temperament were measured with fMRI and compared to brain responses to neutral infants with no temperament association. Our findings show that a brief experimental manipulation of temperament can change brain responses to infant signals. We found increased amygdala connectivity with frontal regions and the visual cortex, including the occipital fusiform gyrus, during the perception of infants with a happy temperament. In addition, amygdala connectivity was positively related to the post-manipulation ratings of infant temperament, indicating that amygdala connectivity is involved in the encoding of the rewarding value of an infant with a happy temperament.
- Functional connectivity
- Infant temperament