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Session Overview
Oral Presentation II: "Neural Maturity of Functional Activation Patterns during Mentalizing in Mother-Child Dyads"
Monday, 21/Nov/2022:
12:00pm - 12:15pm

Presenting Author: Réka Borbás

Location: Auditorium Olivier

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Neural Maturity of Functional Activation Patterns during Mentalizing in Mother-Child Dyads

Réka Borbás1, Plamina Dimanova1,2, Nora Raschle1,2

1University of Zurich, Switzerland; 2Neuroscience Center Zurich

Introduction: Brain development is a prolonged process spanning 22-25 years until mature function and structure are reached. Studies assessing neural correlates of social skills across development report an early involvement of skill-specific structures, however, with increasing age further specialization is observed. Factors shaping socioemotional skill development include genetic predispositions as well as experiences, such as caregiver-child interactions. First intergenerational neuroimaging studies reveal the potential of studying complex skill transmission.

Methods: fMRI data was acquired during a mentalizing task in 39 mother-child dyads (34 mothers:26-52y; 39 children:7-14y,16 girls). First, group-level activation maps were created in the child and mother group, respectively. Next, a functional deviation score was calculated representing the similarity of each child’s mentalizing-induced activation pattern to the average adult pattern, yielding a proxy for neural maturity. The association of deviation score, age, and gender has been tested.

Results: Group findings indicated similar activation during mentalizing in both groups in precuneus, bilateral temporoparietal junction, temporal poles, and medial prefrontal cortex. Despite variation in deviation scores children’s similarity to adult activation was not associated with age or gender.

Discussion: Mentalizing-related activation was consistently observed across all ages reflecting the early presence of skill-specific neural activation. Interestingly, results indicated that neural maturity might not merely be a function of age.

Conclusion: Overall, adult-like neural activation during mentalizing is already present in children aged 7 – 14, though variation exists. Further investigation is needed to identify factors associated with neural maturity. Future analyses will test familial similarity, i.e., the deviation score within individual mother-child dyads.

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