Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UW study: Baby’s face lights up emotional center of new mom’s brain

01.03.2004


When a new mom gazes at her baby, it’s not just her mood that lights up - it’s also a brain region associated with emotion processing, according to a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The study, published in the current issue of NeuroImage, explored what happens in the brain when mothers are shown pictures of their babies, as well as images of unfamiliar infants. While all the photos increased the amount of activity in a part of the brain associated with emotion, the images of the mothers’ own infants generally increased activity even more, suggesting that this brain region may be involved in maternal attachment.

Motivations for the study originated from a lack of reliable knowledge about positive emotions, says Jack Nitschke, a neuroscientist and assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology at UW-Madison. "We know that depression and anxiety are not accompanied solely by an increase in negative emotions, but also by a decrease in positive ones," says Nitschke, lead author of the paper. "Yet we know much more about negative emotions than about positive emotions."



Earlier studies have examined the effects of certain positive experiences on brain activity. But Nitschke notes that many of them are limited either in the scope of emotions elicited or in the reliability of the stimuli such as pictures, tastes or sounds to produce a positive emotional response. For example, while a picture of an ice cream cone may be pleasing to many people, those who are dieting or have an eating disorder may respond less favorably, says the Wisconsin neuroscientist.

To improve and expand upon previous studies, Nitschke and his colleagues wanted to use stimuli that evoke powerful feelings of positive emotion, such as warmth, joy and fulfillment.

"There’s one stimulus that’s universally positive: baby faces," says Nitschke. "Just looking at them gets most people, particularly new moms, feeling all warm and happy."

Testing the relationship between babies and positive emotion, the researchers invited six mothers and their infants to the laboratory. The researchers snapped up to 150 pictures of each baby, between the ages of 3 to 5 months. About six weeks later, the mothers, none of whom suffered from postpartum depression, returned to the lab.

This time, the mothers were shown photos of the happy faces of their babies, other people’s babies, adult acquaintances and adult strangers. The women looked at these photos during a series of brain scans. The scans, or functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI), captured activity in the mothers’ brains.

While in the scanners, the mothers also rated their moods on a nine-point scale based on five feelings: happy, warm, loving, motherly and excited.

The mothers, when seeing pictures of their own babies compared to seeing someone else’s baby or no image at all, showed greater activity in the orbitofrontal cortex - a brain region in the lower part of the frontal lobe that’s involved in decoding the emotional value of a stimulus, such as whether it is a form of reward or punishment. The activity in this brain region was equally strong in both hemispheres.

One of the more interesting findings, notes Nitschke, is that the mothers’ mood ratings corresponded to changes in the brain. For example, the more a mom said she was happy, the more activity there was in both orbitofrontal areas.

This relationship between mood and brain activity, Nitschke says, not only confirms that the orbitofrontal cortex is involved in emotion processing, but also suggests that it may play a role in maternal attachment, the unique bond between a mother and her child.

"Because positive emotion is an aspect of maternal attachment, this brain region is probably important for a mother’s bond with her infant," says Nitschke. "There may be less brain activity there in a mother with postpartum depression."

The UW-Madison researchers plan to explore the possible connection between orbitofrontal cortex activity and postpartum depression in a follow-up study similar to the one just published. That study will include new mothers who are diagnosed with this condition, which can leave them feeling sad, depressed, anxious and irritable months after childbirth. The researchers also plan to image the brains of new fathers as they look through a series of baby photos.

Overall, Nitschke says, "This study provides further evidence for the sage saying to stop and enjoy the little pleasant things in life, such as looking at pictures of your child or even receiving small rewards for doing something well - both of which involve activation of the orbitofrontal cortex. This puts you in a better mood and leads to brain changes that correspond to feeling happier."


Emily Carlson 608-262-9772, emilycarlson@wisc.edu

Emily Carlson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland
19.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

nachricht Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>