New and experienced mothers of infants age 2-12 months are invited to participate

Being a parent starts a new and exciting chapter that brings many changes in how people feel, think, and plan their days.

Some of these changes happen in the brain, and those changes make it possible for us to care for our new babies.

The brain changes constantly throughout life, and we are only starting to understand more about what happens to the brain when someone becomes a parent.

A Mother’s Brain

In our study, we will explore the brain responses of new mothers. We will study this by viewing you interacting with your baby. You will also be asked to look at pictures of your baby during a brain scan. The brain scans do not require injections and do not expose you to any radiation.

The purpose of this research study is to help us better understand the mother-baby relationship and how drugs of abuse may affect a mother’s brain response to her baby. We are inviting you to participate in this research study because you are the mother of infant and may or may not have had challenge with drug addiction.

The study will be done during you baby’s first year of life. There will be four separate visits that will take place over a two-to three-month period;

  • The first visit will be with you and your baby. You will be videotaped while playing with your baby.
  • During the second and third visits, you will receive a nasal spray that may contain a natural hormone, oxytocin*. You will then view pictures of your baby while having an MRI scan.
  • The final visit will be an interview with you about your experiences growing up.

* Oxytocin is a hormone that works in the brain to help with bonding and feelings of love and caring. It also causes muscles around the milk glands to squeeze milk into the ducts during breast-feeding.

Compensation of up to $310 is provided upon completion of all four study visits.

This study is a joint effort of:

  • Attachment and Neurodevelopment Laboratory
  • University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine
  • Stead Family Department of Pediatrics
  • University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital
  • Center for Disabilities and Development


Our work is funded by: The National Institutes of Health. 

Study Director: Lane Strathearn, MD, PhD

For questions about the study, contact:

Carol Mertens, PhD, Research Coordinator

855-994-4692 (Toll Free) or 319-467-5053