Attachment Reminders Trigger Widespread Synchrony across Multiple Brains

Ortal Shimon-Raz, Yaara Yeshurun, Adi Ulmer-Yaniv, Ayelet Levinkron, Roy Salomon, Ruth Feldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Infant stimuli elicit widespread neural and behavioral response in human adults and such massive allocation of resources attests to the evolutionary significance of the primary attachment. Here, we examined whether attachment reminders also trigger cross-brain concordance and generate greater neural uniformity, as indicated by inter-subject correlation (ISC). Human mothers were imaged twice in oxytocin/placebo administration design and stimuli included four ecological videos of a standard unfamiliar mother and infant; two infant/mother alone (Alone) and two mother-infant dyadic contexts (Social). Theory-driven analysis measured cross-brain synchrony in preregistered nodes of the parental caregiving network (PCN), which integrates subcortical structures underpinning mammalian mothering with cortical areas implicated in simulation, mentalization, and emotion regulation, and data-driven analysis assessed brain-wide concordance using whole-brain parcellation. Results demonstrated widespread cross-brain synchrony in both the PCN and across the neuroaxis, from primary sensory/somatosensory areas, through insular-cingulate regions, to temporal and prefrontal cortices. The Social context yielded significantly more cross-brain concordance, with PCN's striatum, parahipporcampal gyrus, superior temporal sulcus, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and prefrontal cortex displaying cross-brain synchrony only to mother-infant social cues. Moment-by-moment fluctuations in mother-infant social synchrony, ranging from episodes of low synchrony to tightly-coordinated positive bouts, were tracked online by cross-brain concordance in the preregistered ACC. Findings indicate that social attachment stimuli, representing evolutionary-salient universal cues that require no verbal narrative, trigger substantial inter-brain concordance and suggest that the mother-infant bond, an icon standing at the heart of human civilization, may function to glue brains into a unified experience and bind humans into social groups.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number43
StatePublished - 25 Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Shimon-Raz et al.


The study was supported by The Simms/Mann Chair to Ruth Feldman and by the Bezos Family Foundation.

FundersFunder number
Bezos Family Foundation


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