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Infant Responses to Maternal Carrying in Human as Early Biomarker and Prognosis Estimator of Child Psychopathology: a Study on Autism Spectrum Disorders and Perinatal Brain Disorders in Early Infancy (CARRYING)
Start date: Mar 1, 2014, End date: Sep 1, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

In this project we aim to understand the psycho-physiological aspects of mother-infant interaction and their paramount influence on typical and atypical development. Mother-infant bonding is the earliest and most critical social relationship of mammalian infants. To promote this bond, infants have innate behaviors to seek maternal proximity and protest upon separation via communication with the mother vocally and through body movement. However, the physiological mechanisms regulating these infant behaviors remain largely undefined. As a model to study very early mother infant interaction we study the maternal and filial contribution during maternal carrying. In a pioneering study (Esposito et al., 2013) we have shown in rodent pups and human infants a specific calming response to maternal carrying. This calming response is a coordinated set of central, motor, and cardiac regulations and is a conserved component of mammalian mother-infant interactions. During the proposed project we aim to test the hypothesis that: (i) the calming response to maternal carrying influence the efficiency of mother-infant interaction; (iia) very early malfunctioning of the infant contribution to maternal carrying may be an early biomarker of child psychopathology (i.e. Autism Spectrum Disorders, ASDs) and (iib) may provide an opportunity for an early estimation of prognosis in infants with Perinatal Brain Disorders (PBDs, i.e. Cerebral Palsy). The study will use physiological and behavioral assessment of infants with typical and atypical development. The present study provides immediate implications for general parenting practices and might provide a tool for the evaluation of the autonomic functions and sensory integrations of neurological disorders in early infancy. Finally, these results may contribute to elucidation of neurobiological mechanisms governing social bonding and cooperation in humans.
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