Background: It is known that emotion regulatory responses of humans are changed by the experiences they have, but in particular, they are changed by becoming a mother. A recent study has found how a woman's emotion regulatory response to a child's crying changes after becoming a mother. However, mothers' emotion regulatory responses other than those to children and the association between emotion regulatory response and parental stress are still unknown. Methods: Eighteen healthy Japanese females (nine mothers and nine non-mothers) participated in the experiment. They performed an emotional Go/Nogo task, with facial expressions of others (angry, happy, and neutral faces) used as emotional stimuli. The percentage of correct responses, response time, and event-related potentials (ERPs) during the task was measured. Results: This comparison revealed that the mother group had a larger P3 (Nogo-P3) amplitude than the non-mother group when Nogo trials were held. This indicates that in mothers, there was greater activation of the behavioral inhibition-related brain areas than in non-mother women when they inhibited inappropriate behavior following recognition of facial expressions of others. In addition, in the mother group, there was a negative correlation between parental stress levels and Nogo-P3 amplitudes evoked by angry faces. This suggests that there is a relation between the level of parental stress of mothers and their emotion regulatory responses to angry faces. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that mothers' emotion regulatory processes may differ from those of non-mothers in response, not only to a child's crying but also to expressions of emotions by others, and also suggest that the inhibitory recognition activity of mothers can be affected by parental stress.
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