Tuesday, 05 Aug, 2008 Science

Baby's Smile Lights Up Mother's Brain


A new research claims that the smile of a baby can not only melt a mother's heart but light up her brain as well. Scientists working at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas observed brain scans of women who became mothers for the first time as they looked at different photographs of babies. The pictures included women's babies and the babies of others, illustrated smiling or crying.

Researchers found that when mothers were shown the photographs of their babies smiling, their brain had a different reaction than when mothers were shown other images. Mothers' brains turned on "reward centers" of the brain, which supports the theory that mothers are biologically programmed to care.

"The smile just by itself - just by seeing it - is a powerful social reward," outlined Dr. Ross Thompson, a professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis.

"And it's a social reward, especially for mothers who are invested in helping that baby feel good," he added.

The research states that the neurotransmitter dopamine is discharged in a mother's brain when she sees her baby smiling. The release of the neurotransmitter dopamine leads to a pleasurable sensation.

Dr. Thompson told "Good Morning America" that the effect may go further than just human babies as well.

"There is really something special about cues of babyishness. We respond with warmth to puppies and kittens and they have some of those same cues. They have large heads; they have large eyes; they have rounded facial features just like human infants do. This natural warmth we have toward infants is biologically deeply rooted in us," said Dr Thompson.

What is interesting and odd is that there was no change in mothers' brains when they watched the images of their babies crying.

Source: ABC News

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