Special Issue "Neural and Epigenetic Factors in Parenting: Individual Differences and Dyadic Processes"

A special issue of Brain Sciences (ISSN 2076-3425). This special issue belongs to the section "Educational Neuroscience".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 20 May 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. María José Rodrigo
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Department of Developmental Psychology and Education, Faculty of Psychology.
2. University Institute of Neuroscience, University of La Laguna, San Cristóbal de La Laguna, 38320 Canary Islands, Spain
Interests: positive parenting; intervention evaluation; early adversity; maternal neglect; personality traits; mother–child interaction; EEG signal processing; brain imaging
Dr. Livio Provenzi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Child Neurology and Psychiatry Unit, IRCCS Mondino Foundation, 27100 Pavia, Italy
Interests: behavioral epigenetics; developmental psychobiology; early intervention; mother-infant interaction; stress regulation
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Human parenting is a fundamental educational context that is biologically primed and constitutes fertile ground for exploring neural and epigenetic factors that shape the complexities of the caregiving task. This Special Issue addresses such complexities, focusing on parents’ individual differences and dyadic processes. Parenting is seen as comprising a set of mental health conditions as well as cognitive, emotional, motivational, and behavioral dispositions that may vary from parent to parent. Parenting is also best understood as a transactional dyadic process between both caregivers as well as parent–child interactions aimed at their co-adaptations. We invite studies using cutting-edge neuroimaging techniques, including time-sensitive techniques such as magnetoencephalography, electroencephalography, and eye tracking, examining the brain bases of adaptive and maladaptive parenting and brain-to-brain connectivity. Studies using quantifiable epigenetic markers, such as DNA methylation, can also help to derive associations between epigenetic variation and a particular identifiable phenotype/trait relevant to parenting. Finally, intervention studies reporting the evaluation of evidence-based parenting programs involving neural or epigenetic measures are also welcome. For this Special Issue, we invite the submission of original research papers and review articles addressing the aforementioned topics using some of the techniques referred to above.

Prof. Dr. María José Rodrigo
Dr. Livio Provenzi
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Brain Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • parenting
  • mental health
  • personality traits
  • co-parenting
  • parent–child interaction
  • neuroimaging
  • DNA methylation

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Distinctive Frontal and Occipitotemporal Surface Features in Neglectful Parenting
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(3), 387; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11030387 - 18 Mar 2021
Viewed by 296
Abstract
Although the brain signatures of adaptive human parenting are well documented, the cortical features associated with maladaptive caregiving are underexplored. We investigated whether cortical thickness and surface area vary in a small group of mothers who had neglected their children (24 in the [...] Read more.
Although the brain signatures of adaptive human parenting are well documented, the cortical features associated with maladaptive caregiving are underexplored. We investigated whether cortical thickness and surface area vary in a small group of mothers who had neglected their children (24 in the neglect group, NG) compared to a control group of mothers with non-neglectful caregiving (21 in the control group, CG). We also tested whether the cortical differences were related to dyadic mother-child emotional availability (EA) in a play task with their children and whether alexithymia involving low emotional awareness that characterizes the NG could play a role in the cortical-EA associations. Whole-brain analysis of the cortical mantle identified reduced cortical thickness in the right rostral middle frontal gyrus and an increased surface area in the right lingual and lateral occipital cortices for the NG with respect to the CG. Follow-up path analysis showed direct effects of the right rostral middle frontal gyrus (RMFG) on the emotional availability (EA) and on the difficulty to identify feelings (alexithymia factor), with a marginal indirect RMFG-EA effect through this factor. These preliminary findings extend existing work by implicating differences in cortical features associated with neglectful parenting and relevant to mother-child interactive bonding. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Epigenetics in Families: Covariance between Mother and Child Methylation Patterns
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(2), 190; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11020190 - 04 Feb 2021
Viewed by 543
Abstract
Theory and research both point at epigenetic processes affecting both parenting behavior and child functioning. However, little is known about the convergence of mother and child’s epigenetic patterns in families. Therefore, the current study investigated epigenetic covariance in mother–child dyads’ methylation levels regarding [...] Read more.
Theory and research both point at epigenetic processes affecting both parenting behavior and child functioning. However, little is known about the convergence of mother and child’s epigenetic patterns in families. Therefore, the current study investigated epigenetic covariance in mother–child dyads’ methylation levels regarding four stress-regulation related genes (5HTT, NR3C1, FKBP5, and BDNF). Covariance was tested in a general population sample, consisting of early adolescents (Mage = 11.63, SDage = 2.3) and mothers (N = 160 dyads). Results showed that mother and offspring 5HTT and NR3C1 methylation patterns correlated. Furthermore, when averaged across genes, methylation levels strongly correlated. These findings partially supported that child and parent methylation levels covary. It might be important to consider this covariance to understand maladaptive parent–child relationships. Full article
Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceArticle
Do Pregnancy-Induced Brain Changes Reverse? The Brain of a Mother Six Years after Parturition
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(2), 168; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11020168 - 28 Jan 2021
Viewed by 697
Abstract
Neuroimaging researchers commonly assume that the brain of a mother is comparable to that of a nulliparous woman. However, pregnancy leads to pronounced gray matter volume reductions in the mother’s brain, which have been associated with maternal attachment towards the baby. Beyond two [...] Read more.
Neuroimaging researchers commonly assume that the brain of a mother is comparable to that of a nulliparous woman. However, pregnancy leads to pronounced gray matter volume reductions in the mother’s brain, which have been associated with maternal attachment towards the baby. Beyond two years postpartum, no study has explored whether these brain changes are maintained or instead return to pre-pregnancy levels. The present study tested whether gray matter volume reductions detected in primiparous women are still present six years after parturition. Using data from a unique, prospective neuroimaging study, we compared the gray matter volume of 25 primiparous and 22 nulliparous women across three sessions: before conception (n = 25/22), during the first months of postpartum (n = 25/21), and at six years after parturition (n = 7/5). We found that most of the pregnancy-induced gray matter volume reductions persist six years after parturition (classifying women as having been pregnant or not with 91.67% of total accuracy). We also found that brain changes at six years postpartum are associated with measures of mother-to-infant attachment. These findings open the possibility that pregnancy-induced brain changes are permanent and encourage neuroimaging studies to routinely include pregnancy-related information as a relevant demographic variable. Full article
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Distinctive frontal and occipitotemporal surface features in neglectful parenting
Authors: Inmaculada León1,2; María José Rodrigo1,2; Ileana Quiñones3; Juan Andrés Hernández-Cabrera 1,2; and Lorna García-Pentón4
Affiliation: 1Instituto Universitario de Neurociencia, La Laguna, Canary Islands, Spain 2Facultad de Psicología. Universidad de La Laguna, La Laguna, Canary Islands, Spain 3Basque Center on Cognition, Brain, and Language, Donostia-San Sebastián, Basque Country, Spain 4Department of Psychology. University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.
Abstract: Although the brain signatures of adaptive human parenting are well documented, the cortical features associated with maladaptive caregiving are underexplored. We investigated whether cortical thickness and surface area vary in a small group of mothers who had neglected their children (24 in the neglect group, NG) compared to a control group of mothers with non-neglectful caregiving (21 in the control group, CG). We also tested whether the cortical differences were related to dyadic mother-child emotional availability (EA) in a play task with their children and whether alexithymia involving low emotional awareness that characterizes NG could play a role in the cortical–EA associations. Whole-brain analysis of the cortical mantle identified reduced cortical thickness in the right rostral middle frontal gyrus and an increased surface area in the right lingual and lateral occipital cortices for NG with respect to CG. Follow-up path analysis showed direct effects of the right rostral middle frontal gyrus (RMFG) on the emotional availability (EA) and on the difficulty to identify feelings (alexithymia factor), with a marginal indirect RMFG-EA effect through this factor. These preliminary findings extend existing work by implicating differences in cortical features associated with neglectful parenting and relevant to mother-child interactive bonding.

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