Role of Attachment on Neurobiological Development Essay by immortal

Role of Attachment on Neurobiological Development
A review of the role of early attachment relationships on the developing mind.
# 154120 | 2,120 words | 10 sources | 2010 | AU
Published on Feb 08, 2015 in Psychology (Child and Adolescent) , Psychology (Theory)

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This essay explores the recent developments in attachment theory through incorporation of neurobiological studies. It explores the basic theories regarding brain development within the early attachment relationship, and outlines the different attachment patterns that may emerge from different attachment relationships/ parenting styles.

From the Paper:

"Neuroscience has contributed to the field of attachment theory by explicitly linking the development of the brain with the early attachment relationships of the infant (Wallin, 2007; Siegel, 1999; Solomon and Siegel, 2003). The infant's brain is largely undifferentiated at birth (Wallin, 2007) so formation of synaptic connection occurs after birth and specifically in interaction with the infant's environment, i.e. the primary attachment relationship (Wallin, 2007). Thus what registers in the infant's mind and body as an 'experience' creates firing of synapses and cementing of neural pathways (Wallin 2007). The quality, therefore, of the infant's 'experiencing' is central to the kind of 'firing and wiring' (Siegel, 1999) that will occur.
"The infant's 'experiencing' will be dominated in early life by affect and the subsequent activation of the physiological body in response to this affect (Wallin, 2007). Affect is the primary mode of experiencing and communicating for the infant due to the predominance of the right hemisphere of the brain during this time (Solomon and Siegel, 2003). The right hemisphere of the brain is distinguished by its lack of language and linguistic processing, associated instead with somatic/ sensorimotor sensing and affect (Solomon and Siegel, 2003). Thus, during its early development, the infant's brain lacks higher cortex functioning and can only process the world and its experiences through somatic sensing and affect (Wallin, 2007).
"Affect activates physiological arousal through the limbic system (Wallin, 2007). The limbic system is strongly connected to the affect-driven, right hemisphere of the brain, and is often known as the "emotional brain" (Wallin, 2007). Somatic experiences and affect are registered in the right hemisphere of the brain, and activate the limbic system's amygdala to trigger the 'fight or flight' response of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) (Wallin, 2007). Therefore when the infant feels in danger the amygdala signals the brainstem to activate the sympathetic nervous system which will do such things as cause cortisol to flood the body increasing heart rate and respiration (Sapolsky, 1998; Wallin, 2007). In infants we would typically identify the sympathetic response with such things as crying, kicking and shaking. When the infant feels safe, the amygdala signals the brainstem to activate the parasympathetic branch of the ANS which will do such things as slow heart rate and respiration (Wallin, 2007). In this way, it can be hypothesised that the early life of the infant and child is dominated by somatic stimuli (e.g. hunger/ fullness, coldness/ warmth, tiredness/ vitality) which activate strong affects within the body which, in turn, activate either the sympathetic or parasympathetic systems within the ANS."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Fosha. 2003. `` Dyadic regulation and experiential work with emotion and relatedness in trauma and disorganised attachment.'' In Solomon and Siegel (Eds.). Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body and Brain. New York and London: WW Norton.
  • Kahn, M. 1997. Between Therapist and Client: The New Relationship. Revised Edition. New York: Henry Holt.
  • Karen, R. 1994. Becoming Attached: First relationship and how they shape our capacity to love.
  • Lee, R. 1988. ``The Reverse Self Object Experience.'' American Journal of Psychotherapy, 42: 416-424

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