Introduction: Mother-infant relationship is crucial for offspring’s development. Substance-abuse has been shown to affect adults’ ability to care for their children, in particular in the affective- relational aspects of parenting, such as the attachment bond and the ability to provide protection. Surprisingly, no previous study has explored neural responses associated with empathy towards children’s pain in mothers with such history. Empathy is a more general construct than parenting and deficits in neural empathic responses may better explain failures in caring of addicted mothers. Aims of the study: This study was aimed at investigating the empathic response to pain inflicted by a dangerous tool to hands of kids when compared to neutral situations in a sample of mothers with history of drug-abuse. We used Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) technique to explore the time-course of neural empathic responses to pain by virtue of its excellent time resolution. In particular, we asked whether empathic responses to pain of children would differ in drug-addicted mothers compared to control group, during a relatively automatic early stage of processing or during a more controlled delayed one involving mentalizing. Material and methods: Event-related potentials (ERPs) have been recorded from drug-addicted mothers (i.e., clinical) and control groups to track neural activity in a pain decision task. Stimuli were pictures showing one infant hand in painful (harmful object applied to the hand) and neutral situations (harmful object located close to the hand). Results: Neural empathic responses towards children in pain differed between the two groups such that ERPs diverged between the painful and neutral stimulation at delayed stages of processing only for the clinical group. Conclusions: We interpreted these results as indicating that the control group implicitly judged also the neutral situations involving children as potentially painful supporting a lack of mentalizing abilities in the clinical group when compared with controls.

Drug addicted mothers and their empathic reactivity to painful cues.

PIALLINI, GIULIA;MECONI, FEDERICA;DE PALO, FRANCESCA;SIMONELLI, ALESSANDRA;SESSA, PAOLA
2016

Abstract

Introduction: Mother-infant relationship is crucial for offspring’s development. Substance-abuse has been shown to affect adults’ ability to care for their children, in particular in the affective- relational aspects of parenting, such as the attachment bond and the ability to provide protection. Surprisingly, no previous study has explored neural responses associated with empathy towards children’s pain in mothers with such history. Empathy is a more general construct than parenting and deficits in neural empathic responses may better explain failures in caring of addicted mothers. Aims of the study: This study was aimed at investigating the empathic response to pain inflicted by a dangerous tool to hands of kids when compared to neutral situations in a sample of mothers with history of drug-abuse. We used Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) technique to explore the time-course of neural empathic responses to pain by virtue of its excellent time resolution. In particular, we asked whether empathic responses to pain of children would differ in drug-addicted mothers compared to control group, during a relatively automatic early stage of processing or during a more controlled delayed one involving mentalizing. Material and methods: Event-related potentials (ERPs) have been recorded from drug-addicted mothers (i.e., clinical) and control groups to track neural activity in a pain decision task. Stimuli were pictures showing one infant hand in painful (harmful object applied to the hand) and neutral situations (harmful object located close to the hand). Results: Neural empathic responses towards children in pain differed between the two groups such that ERPs diverged between the painful and neutral stimulation at delayed stages of processing only for the clinical group. Conclusions: We interpreted these results as indicating that the control group implicitly judged also the neutral situations involving children as potentially painful supporting a lack of mentalizing abilities in the clinical group when compared with controls.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11577/3207751
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