Network integrity of the parental brain in infancy supports the development of children's social competencies

Eyal Abraham, Talma Hendler, Orna Zagoory-Sharon, Ruth Feldman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The cross-generational transmission of mammalian sociality, initiated by the parent's postpartum brain plasticity and species-typical behavior that buttress offspring's socialization, has not been studied in humans. In this longitudinal study, we measured brain response of 45 primary-caregiving parents to their infant's stimuli, observed parent-infant interactions, and assayed parental oxytocin (OT). Intra-and inter-network connectivity were computed in three main networks of the human parental brain: core limbic, embodied simulation and mentalizing. During preschool, two key child social competencies were observed: emotion regulation and socialization. Parent's network integrity in infancy predicted preschoolers' social outcomes, with subcortical and cortical network integrity foreshadowing simple evolutionary-based regulatory tactics vs complex self-regulatory strategies and advanced socialization. Parent-infant synchrony mediated the links between connectivity of the parent's embodied simulation network and preschoolers' ability to use cognitive/executive emotion regulation strategies, highlighting the inherently dyadic nature of this network and its long-term effects on tuning young to social life. Parent's inter-network core limbic-embodied simulation connectivity predicted children's OT as moderated by parental OT. Findings challenge solipsistic neuroscience perspectives by demonstrating how the parent-offspring interface enables the brain of one human to profoundly impact long-termadaptation of another.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1707-1718
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • Embodied simulation
  • Mentalizing
  • Oxytocin
  • Parent-infant synchrony
  • Parental brain


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