On April 13th, The Silver School of Social Work at NYU (regarded as the nation's most premier clinical social work program) welcomed Dr. Alan Schore, a brilliant neuropsychologist whose groundbreaking work continues to inform attachment theory and our understanding of how early maternal child interactions directly affect the rapidly growing right hemisphere of the neonate's brain. That the quality of this bonding experience impacts the developing limbic structures which control affect regulation - a critical component of infant and eventual adult mental health - is well accepted.
In a recent article, "Relational Trauma and the Developing Right Brain: the Neurobiology of Broken Attachment Bonds" (Relational Trauma in Infancy, 2010), Schore concluded that the most stressful forms of early attachment trauma on these developing systems are abuse and neglect. Schore and others have demonstrated that early emotional trauma interferes with organization of right brain cortical-subcortical limbic circuits leading to compromise in such functions as attachment, capacity to play, empathy and affect regulation.
The ability to moderate one's emotional responses to stress and other environmental stimuli is among the hallmarks of mental health. These developing right brain regulatory structures are exquisitely sensitive to the quality of maternal child bonding through mutually attuned and reciprocal responses.
Such associations are not new. Ovtscharoff & Braun (Neuroscience, 2001), state "the dyadic interaction between the newborn and the mothers...serves as a regulator of the developing individual's internal homeostasis. The regulatory function of the newborn-mother interaction may be an essential promoter to ensure the normal development and maintenance of synaptic connections during the establishment of functional brain circuits."
Currently, Montirosso, Borgatti & Tronick (in press), note that infants cope with emotional distress caused by unresponsive mothers through self-regulation behaviors associated with a greater activation of the right hemisphere.