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The Influence of Maternal Schizotypy on the perception of Facial Emotional Expressions during Infancy: an Event-Related Potential Study

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Article number101390
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>28/02/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Infant Behavior and Development
Number of pages16
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date3/12/19
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Parenting directly affects the developmental and clinical outcomes of children. How parental personality relates to perceptual and cognitive mechanisms during early development is not clear. For parents with traits of the personality dimension schizotypy, would their infant display brain responses similar to those on the schizophrenia-spectrum? This study investigates whether maternal personality influences early social-cognitive awareness during the first 6 postnatal months.

Schizotypy is a dimension of personality within the general population. If deficits contribute to the development of schizophrenia-spectrum disorders by influencing the development of symptom-like characteristics, they may be observable in neurotypical individuals with schizotypal characteristics. Parents and their infants were shown standardised positive and negative faces and event-related potential responses were assessed. It was hypothesised that the infants of schizotypic mothers would display differential Negative-central event-related potentials for the happy and fearful expressions when compared to infants of non-schizotypic mothers.

Results support prior literature; indicating 6-month-old infants allocate more attentional resources to fearful when contrasted to happy faces. The adult cohort displays this same ability. In addition, schizotypic mothers displayed comparable amplitudes for both expressions in comparison to the control mothers who exhibited larger amplitudes towards the fearful compared to the happy expression. Infants of schizotypic mothers did not show a greater sensitivity to facial expressions at 6-months, but schizotypic mothers showed a generalised response towards facial expressions compared to the typical P600 response illustrated by the control mothers. The present study suggests that development in the higher cognitive domains, such as the allocation of attention to novel stimuli, are not affected at 6 months of age by maternal personality related to schizotypy when examined at the group level. Implications for personality development, maternal-infant interactions and cognitive neuroscience methodologies are discussed.