Project NeuroBind

Neuroimaging of the Attachment System in „Children at Risk“

The project NeuroBind investigates the neural bases of the attachment system in children with different attachment styles using neuroimaging techniques (structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging). To activate their attachment system, children are shown different attachment relevant pictures and are asked to imagine themselves in secure and dangerous social situations. Correlations between brain activity and emotional reactions in response to those specific social situations are analyzed.

The NeuroBind project investigates the neural correlates of the attachment system in children using structural and functional neuroimaging (magnetic resonance imaging/MRI).

Empirical studies from the field of attachment research have established a crucial role of attachment in early development. Early attachment experiences are essential for the cognitive, affective and social development of children. Results show for example that the attachment style of a child has a strong influence on its later educational performance or behavioral difficulties. The investigation of basic neurological mechanisms underlying attachment, accordingly, is an important step in understanding in more detail the development as well as the influence of the attachment patterns.

In this study, we examine the neural networks activated in attachment relevant situations, by comparing securely attached and disorganized attached (traumatized) children aged 9-11 years. To this end, we record brain activity with functional MRI while children engage in a playful manner in (attachment relevant) social interactions. This enables the study team to examine the relationship between localized neural activation patterns and (secure or disorganized) attachment styles.

Selected Publications

Leuzinger-Bohleber, M., Fischmann, T., Läzer, K.L., Pfenning-Meerkötter, N., Wolff, A., & Green, J. (2011). Frühprävention psychosozialer Störungen bei Kindern mit belasteten Kindheiten. Psyche, 65, 989–1022

Leuzinger-Bohleber, M. (2014). Social emotional risk factors. Child Indicators Research, 7(4), 715–734.