Infants can remember emotional events: study

Aug 25, 2010 By Laurie Stephens

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study led by a University of Toronto Scarborough psychologist shows that human infants can remember unusual emotional events.

Investigating the impact of relationship disruptions on stress regulation in , researchers asked parents to briefly ignore their six-month-old infants during an experiment, which caused an elevation in infant stress hormones, said Dr. David Haley, a psychologist at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the lead investigator of the study.

To see whether infants would remember this episode of parental unresponsiveness, infants were re-exposed to the same context after 24 hours. Although parents did not ignore their infants on this second day of the experiment, the infants demonstrated an anticipatory stress response, as evidenced by an elevation in cortisol, a stress hormone. Overall levels of stress hormones were lower on the second day compared with the first day, however, suggesting that infants can anticipate the stressful event based on expectations about how their parents will treat them, but are able to adapt to the stressor.

“The capacity to adapt to changes in parenting may be an evolutionary advantage that contributes to the reciprocal nature of the parent-infant relationship in humans,” said Haley.

The results of the study are published on Aug. 25 in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

“What the new data make clear,” said Jay Belsky, director of the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues at Birbeck University of London, “is that the infant does, indeed, remember in some manner how stressful life is and, in line with attachment theory, develops expectations about the future.”

Clyde Hertzman, director of the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at the University of British Columbia, said the research helps explain the biological basis of bonding and attachment because it shows that children as young as six months have the capacity to remember stressful events in intimate contexts.

“Most important, it helps us to understand why social and emotional deprivation in the first year of life can have profound long-term impacts on child development and mental health,” said Hertzman.

Haley said researchers are only beginning to understand the basic mechanisms that enable human infants to anticipate, remember and adapt to unusual in an attachment context. It remains unknown whether the memories that trigger the anticipatory stress response are located in the mind or body.

“It isn't clear where or how the information is being retained," said Megan Gunnar, professor of psychology of the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota. Rather than suggesting that “the child can 'think' about yesterday,” she said, “I might shift more to the wisdom of the body (the child's stress system retains the experience).”

The study also suggested that behavioural and physiological components of the stress system are loosely coupled. Haley said that each component of the stress system “may adapt according to different schedules.

“The memories that activate each component of the anticipatory stress response may not be in sync, and specific memory cues may be needed to activate each component of the stress response. For example, the infant might have to sit in the chair again before his or her negative affect increases, whereas simply seeing the chair causes the release of .”

Haley is conducting further studies on the persistence and stability of the infant anticipatory .

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User comments : 16

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docjape
not rated yet Aug 25, 2010
Having an odd brain – one which has held memories – albeit few, from about 6 months old I always become very irritated by early childhood psychological research.

One of my earliest memories, at about 6 months, is of my crib in my parents bedroom, objects - all separate entities, dull with a ‘haze’ around them, and another object - my mother, entering the room. My emotions towards the object of my mother were of fullness or completeness, when she left they were of emptiness – I might add the emotions were very basic, intense, and not the same emotions of adulthood. I don’t remember any concepts other than the immediate although I do remember some objects as entities with attached emotions.

I might add that the objects and emotions quite rapidly formed into linked systems and memories from the age of about one onwards are more in line with normal childhood memories.
freethinking
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 25, 2010
The more they study babies at an early age, the more they find out that babies can feel pain, have emotions. I think that all such studies should be banned because it just gives more and more evidence that babies are fully human. We cant give more ammo to pro-lifers, they already have enough science behind them.
knikiy
not rated yet Aug 25, 2010
Is anyone arguing that babies are not fully human? Another possible discussion might be, at what age do we divest ourselves of our humanity and why? Or does humanity include being inhumane?
MickiMaynard
not rated yet Aug 26, 2010
A more deep study is needed to be done in this field to understand the impact of childhood incidents on human behavior.
http://ezineartic...=4917255
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Aug 26, 2010
The more they study babies at an early age, the more they find out that babies can feel pain, have emotions. I think that all such studies should be banned because it just gives more and more evidence that babies are fully human. We cant give more ammo to pro-lifers, they already have enough science behind them.
Babies are not fetuses until well after they actually develop a nervous system and central processing center.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Aug 26, 2010
The more they study babies at an early age, the more they find out that babies can feel pain, have emotions. I think that all such studies should be banned because it just gives more and more evidence that babies are fully human. We cant give more ammo to pro-lifers, they already have enough science behind them.
Babies are not fetuses until well after they actually develop a nervous system and central processing center.

Strike that, reverse it.
freethinking
1 / 5 (4) Aug 26, 2010
Like I said, if you are a pro-abortionists you need to be against, and stop at any cost all reasearch on young born babies as well as pre-born babies, as the research just gives more ammunition for those evil people that consider pre-born babies fully human deserving respect and dignity.

We all know that babies are not human and should not be given human status until we say they are human based on subjective reasoning and progressive logic that determines humanness by the value we place on an object that has only human potential.
Skeptic_Heretic
3 / 5 (2) Aug 26, 2010
Like I said, if you are a pro-abortionists you need to be against, and stop at any cost all reasearch on young born babies as well as pre-born babies, as the research just gives more ammunition for those evil people that consider pre-born babies fully human deserving respect and dignity.
Wrong. If you are for the practice of a medical procedure that could potentially be akin to murder, it is your duty to study the subject of the procedure in order to form an ethical stance on the topic.
We all know that babies are not human and should not be given human status until we say they are human based on subjective reasoning and progressive logic that determines humanness by the value we place on an object that has only human potential.
No, that would be the thought process of a sociopath, like mengele. The fact you don't see a difference shows that you may also be a Mengele style sociopath. Religion is obviously the only thing preventing you from becomming an animal.
freethinking
1 / 5 (4) Aug 26, 2010
What is it about progressives and name calling? If they start to lose an argument, first comes silence, then comes the name calling. Also wasn't there a study just recently on physorg that reported people projected their issues on others?

SH, I must have hit a nerve, do you have progressive guilt syndrome?
Skeptic_Heretic
1 / 5 (1) Aug 26, 2010
What is it about progressives and name calling? If they start to lose an argument, first comes silence, then comes the name calling. Also wasn't there a study just recently on physorg that reported people projected their issues on others?
Would that be why you started off by insinuating that all pro-choice advocates are murders and amoral killers of undefended children?

SH, I must have hit a nerve, do you have progressive guilt syndrome?
No, guilt syndromes are the hallmark of the religious.
freethinking
1 / 5 (4) Aug 26, 2010
Well I'm being consistent. Since science and logic proves that unborn babies are fully human, and we all know that unborn babies cannot defend themselves, then stating those that kill them are killing defenseless babies is a true statement, no matter how it offends.

Its just like saying nazi's are offended because people say they killed 6 million jews.

Its absurd. Its like a nazi saying to those that defend jews, that they are anti semitic for calling jews human.

I wish progressives can speak the truth. Those that are for abortion should be able to say that they are for killing unborn babies, under all/some conditions. Quit trying to hide behind terms like fetus.

Nazis hate jews. Them saying anything else is a lie.
Abortionists kill unborn babies. Saying anything else is a lie.
Pro-abortionists support the killing of unborn babies. Saying anything else is a lie.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Aug 26, 2010
Since science and logic proves that unborn babies are fully human, and we all know that unborn babies cannot defend themselves, then stating those that kill them are killing defenseless babies is a true statement, no matter how it offends.
And where you say "science and logic proves" is where you run into trouble. The above article doesn't prove it, nor does it even attempt to speak to it.
I wish progressives can speak the truth. Those that are for abortion should be able to say that they are for killing unborn babies, under all/some conditions.
Babies, by definition, are born.
Quit trying to hide behind terms like fetus.
Says the man that states science, an art of rigorous definition, proves his stance.
Nazis hate jews.
The NAZIs did not all hate Jews. Schindler for one. Neo-nazis, maybe.
Abortionists kill unborn babies.
Primarily for pro-lifers.
Pro-abortionists support the killing of unborn babies.
There's no pro to it, it's a medical procedure.
freethinking
1 / 5 (3) Aug 27, 2010
SH speak the truth, I know that for progressive causes you have a hart time with this. Logic and science proves fetus, babies are fully human. Only an ignorant person, a lier or and idiot disputes this.

Baby definition:
http://www.answer...r-mark-i

Look it, I unlike many other pro-lifers support the death penalty in some cases. I will fully admit that the person who will be killed is fully human. I have reason to support his death. I don't deny that the person is a person.

A enemy combatant, I have no problems in calling them fully human, and supporting killing them.

You and other pro-abortionists cannot admit to being in support of killing defenseless babies. Like I said, speak the truth. You consider some humans ok to kill and those human happen to be defenseless babies. I support the killing of certain criminals and enemies, I still consider these people fully human. I'm consistant, you are not.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Aug 27, 2010
I still consider these people fully human. I'm consistant, you are not.
Then you support allowing unborn children to be a tax break, to have citizenship in the country in which they were conceived, etc?

Your stance is hardly consistent, and your definitions are shoddy. This is a matter of your opinion and is easily proved.

Do you consider an ectopic pregnacy to be murder in progress? Do you consider a pregnant woman smoking or drinking to be an act of child abuse?

You're opening a discussions based door that will show your stance to be utter horseshit rather quickly. There's no easy answer here, but the mother is the owner of the unborn child. As a man, you or I have zero relevant say on what their choice can or should be. Deal with it.
Nina2
5 / 5 (1) Sep 04, 2010
Regarding the debate about abortion that seems to have sprung up in the comments pages... I don't think most of you know what you are talking about. Abortions happen within the first trimester (the 1st three months). Barring medical emergencies, late term abortions are not typically performed. This means, what is being aborted is not a baby, not a fetus- it is an embryo. I had an abortion, and I researched it intensely beforehand, so that I could know what was truly happening. At the point at which I performed the abortion, what was inside me was a collection of cells. It's true that the body can form and the heart start beating early on (hadn't happened yet in my case), but what i learned is that the nerves form and connect later, and that the brain only begins developing at the end of the first trimester. In order for a thing to have feelings, it has to have a brain. 1st trimester abortion has nothing to do with babies, fetuses or this article. Does everyone understand?
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Sep 04, 2010
Nina,

That was my understanding of the issue. I did the same research when a friend was mulling over the abortion decision. Hence why my stance is as it is.

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