Babys Smile a Natural High
Reported July 09, 2008
(Ivanhoe Newswire) The happy smile of a baby does more than warm a mothers heart. It literally makes her glow.
Using magnetic resonance technology, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine were able to actually see key reward areas of a mothers brain light up when she was shown pictures of her smiling baby. The reaction is key in the development of the maternal bond that is so critical to healthy child development.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, which measures blood flow in the brain, the research team showed women pictures of their infant with different expressions. They also showed them pictures of children that were not theirs. The strength of the reaction depended on the expression on the babys face and whether it was their own child. The team found the strongest reactions when the baby was smiling and it was her own.
The areas of the brain that were stimulated are associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine. Among them was the section of the frontal lobe associated with emotion processing, cognition and motor/behavioral output. These are the same areas that are associated with drug addiction, which led the team to describe the maternal reaction as a natural high.
Researchers stressed the importance understanding the workings of the mother-child bond so they can help in cases when it goes wrong. Neglect and abuse can result with devastating effects on a childs development, said Dr. Lane Strathearn, assistant professor of pediatrics at BCM and Texas Childrens Hospital. He went on to say, Understanding how a mother responds uniquely to her own infant when smiling or crying may be the first step in understanding the neural basis of mother-infant attachment.
SOURCE: Pediatrics, July 7, 2008