Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Reward centre in the brain is activated by looking at cute facial features

03.06.2009
A sweet little face produces a reaction in the beholder. Scientists from the Universities of Münster and Pennsylvania have for the first time identified a region of the brain which, in the case of women, is activated by looking at a child's cute face. This region, located deep in the brain, is also known as the reward centre.

The baby schema felt to be cute contains a series of child-like physical features, e.g. a large head with a high forehead, round cheeks and big eyes. Numerous behavioural studies have confirmed the effect of the baby schema on adults.

For example, a team of researchers led by Melanie Glocker from the Institute of Neural and Behavioural Biology at the University of Münster already showed just recently that children who correspond more strongly to the baby schema increase a willingness to show caretaking behaviour. This reaction is stronger in women than in men, even though both sexes perceive the cuteness equally.

However, not much was known hitherto about the neuro-biological basis of this fundamental social instinct which could be the basis for caretaking and altruistic behaviour. In collaboration with a team of colleagues from Pennsylvania led by Prof. Ruben Gur, the Münster neuroscientists Melanie Glocker and Prof. Norbert Sachser have shown in a new study for the first time what goes on in the brain as a reaction to the baby schema. "The results," says Glocker, "give an insight into the biological basis for caretaking behaviour by human beings. They provide a neurophysiological explanation for our impulse to look after anything resembling a baby."

For the study, Glocker manipulated baby photos with a special image editing programme which produced, in addition to the original photo, portraits with lower and higher baby schema values. For example, the same baby was given bigger or smaller eyes or a round or narrow face. Women who had not had children themselves looked at these children's faces, and their brain activity was measured with the aid of functional magnetic resonance imaging.

As the baby schema content increased, the researchers discovered a corresponding increase in activity in the nucleus accumbens, which is a region of the brain already known as a reward centre and which mediates motivated behaviour seeking reward, triggers feelings of happiness and plays a role in drug addiction, among other things. In addition, further regions of the brain react to the baby schema, including areas involved in the processing of faces and in attention. The researchers assume that similar processes could take place in men's brains.

"Activating the reward centre could represent the neurophysiological mechanism by which the baby schema motivates caretaking behaviour," says Glocker, "irrespective of the degree of kinship between child and beholder."

reference: Glocker et al. (2009) - Baby schema modulates the brain reward system in nulliparous women. Published online before print May 18, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0811620106

Dr. Christina Heimken | idw
Further information:
http://www.ethologie.de/home.html
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/05/15/0811620106.abstract

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Newly designed molecule binds nitrogen
23.02.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Atomic Design by Water
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>