The Neurobiology of Parenting

Berzelius symposium 90
19-21 August 2015 in Stockholm, Sweden

Arranged by the Swedish Society of Medicine
in cooperation with Acta Paediatrica, Sällskapet Barnavård,

John Lind Stiftelsen and Karolinska Institutet  


Organizing committee: Professor Hugo Lagercrantz, Wibke Jonas, RM PhD,  Associate Prof .Ulrika Ådén MD PhD (Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, KI)  and Associate  Prof Andreas Olsson (Department of Clinical  Neuroscience, KI).  

The aim of this proposed Berzeliussymposium is to present novel research findings with respect to the underlying physiological and psychological processes of becoming a parent as well as to the mechanisms of how parenting emerges.

As many as 2.8 million mothers and 2.3 million fathers live in Sweden today, which amounts to approximately 51% of the entire population.
   Thus, parents constitute a significant portion of the population. Parents are willing to expend enormous resources, at personal costs to raise their children and ‘deserve’ to be noticed and understood in their own rights.  

We also know that the quality of parenting has large effects on the development of children. For instance, sensitive and responsive parenting affects childrens’ attachment, emotional and social regulation, their language, cognition, and executive function development and growth. It is evident that these effects are prominent from very early on: Breastfeeding, close physical contact between the mother (and father) and baby and/or talking and singing to the infant stimulates the cognitive and emotional development as early as in the postpartum period.
Lack of adequate stimulation and long term separation from care-givers can have deterimental effects on children, as was seen, for example, in the hospitalized Romanian orphans. Harsh, neglectful or abusive parenting results in higher risk for physical health problems and substance abuse, adult obesity and chronic illness or depression.Parenting clearly matters. Parental caretaking is a fundamental and genetically transmitted biological instinct, and we are just starting to understand the underlying psycho- and neurobiological mechanisms that determine individual differences in parental behaviour in humans.

Just to illustrate some of the mechanisms involved: high levels of oxytocin, released during labour and birth stimulate the mother’s readiness to take care of her newborn. High levels of cortisol stimulate the mother’s alertness and capability to recognize their newborns simply by smell. The bare view of a newborn baby is capable of stimulating an adults dopaminergic reward system.
The latter is true even for persons who are not parents!
Increased activity has been demonstrated in the orbitofrontal cortex of adults when viewing a newborn infant regardless of  parenthood.  

This symposium will exhibit pre-clinical and clinical research findings and is relevant for a broad audience, including researchers and students, laymen and all personnel who are working with families and newborns.  

You are cordially invited to participate!  

Pressmeddelande >>


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

12.00–13.00 Registration  

13.00   Welcome Addresses: 
Filippa Nyberg, CEO, The Swedish Society of Medicine
Hugo Lagercrantz, Chair, Organizing Committee

Psychobiology, genetics of parental care and the brain
Chair: Kyllike Christensson and Per-Anders Rydelius  

13.10   Alison Fleming: Neuropsychology of Human Mothering and the Effects of Experience 

13.45  Wibke Jonas: Breastfeeding: Factors affecting its occurrence and effects.

14.00  Renée Flacking: Breastfeeding and infant-parent interaction.  

14.15  Discussion  

14.30  Coffee

15.00  Nim Tottenham: Human Amygdala-Prefrontal Cortex Development and the Role
of Caregiving.

15.35  Ruth Feldman: The Human Parental Brain; Mothers and Fathers.  

16.10   Discussion  

19.00   Reception at the Stockholm City Hall hosted by a member of the Presidency of the City Council and co-hosted by Stockholm’s County Council. The number of participants is limited!

Thursday, 20 August 2015 

Newborn and parental behaviour in the immediate postpartum period.   

Chair: Anne-Marie Widström and Stephen Matthews

09.00  Patrick McGowan: The role of early life adversity and parental care in shaping mental
health trajectories.

09.35  Eva Nissen: Skin-to-skin contact after birth”.  

09.50  Hugo Lagercrantz: Awakening of the newborn infant.  

10.05  Discussion  

10.30  Coffee  

10.50  Mikael Norman: Mode of delivery – epigenetic effects.  

11.10  Steven Lye: Maternal Contributions to the Initiation of Term and Preterm Birth.  

11.30  Ulrika Ådén and Nelly Padilla: The preterm brain.

12.00   Discussion  

12.20  Lunch  

Chair: Chair: Karin Stjernqvist and Claes von Hofsten  

13.20  William Fifer: Fetal and infant learning.  

13.55  Terje Falck-Ytter: Mirror neurons in parent infant interaction.

14.10  Lianne Woodward: Parenting a Preterm Infant in the NICU and Beyond.

 14.45 Andreas Olsson: Social learning of threat and safety.  

15.00  Discussion  

15.15  Coffee and Poster viewing.  

18.00  Symposium dinner at Junibacken on Djurgården, Stockholm. Including the ”Story Train” which will take us on a journey with the fabulous stories of Astrid Lindgren. (Open to participants who have registrered and paid the fee for SEK 500).

Friday, 21 August 2015

Chair: Lena Hellström-Westas and Björn Westrup 

09.05  Martin Ritzén:
John Lind – a pioneer pediatrician understanding the importance of parental-infant bonding.  

09.15  Marc Bornstein: Two Kinds of Mother-Infant Interactions across Cultures and their
Neurobiological Underpinnings.

09.50  Anna Sarkadi: The Swedish father. 

10.10  Discussion

10.20  Coffee

Chair: Hugo Lagercrantz and Kerstin Uvnäs Moberg

10.40  Larry Young:
Parallels between the neural control of parental care and pair bonding and
the influences of parental nurturing on infant social development.

11.15  Morten Kringelbach: The parental instinct.  

11.50  General discussion

          Concluding remarks: Kerstin Uvnäs Moberg




You are most welcome to submit a poster abstract to the meeting!  

Abstract: max length 44 lines with Times New Roman 12 p.  

Please send to annie.melin@sls.se not later than 10h June 2015.  

Poster boards at the symposium: there will be boards available with approx size of 90 cm wide x 120 cm. If you already have a poster in a larger size, two boards can be used.

More information annie.melin@sls.se