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 Nesting aids make agricultural fields attractive for bees
20.07.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht The Kitchen Sponge – Breeding Ground for Germs
20.07.2017 | Hochschule Furtwangen

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

Leipzig HTP-Forum discusses "hydrothermal processes" as a key technology for a biobased economy

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create new technique for manipulating polarization of terahertz radiation

20.07.2017 | Information Technology

High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing

20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors

20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>