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 Mineral discoveries in the Galapagos Islands pose a puzzle as to their formation and origin
19.10.2018 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Massive organism is crashing on our watch
18.10.2018 | S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Goodbye, silicon? On the way to new electronic materials with metal-organic networks

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking those of highly crystalline silicon. The material which can easily be fabricated at room temperature could serve as a replacement for expensive conventional inorganic materials used in optoelectronics.

Silicon, a so called semiconductor, is currently widely employed for the development of components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High purity...

Im Focus: Storage & Transport of highly volatile Gases made safer & cheaper by the use of “Kinetic Trapping"

Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles

Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...

Im Focus: Disrupting crystalline order to restore superfluidity

When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.

We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...

Im Focus: Micro energy harvesters for the Internet of Things

Fraunhofer IWS Dresden scientists print electronic layers with polymer ink

Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...

Im Focus: Dynamik einzelner Proteine

Neue Messmethode erlaubt es Forschenden, die Bewegung von Molekülen lange und genau zu verfolgen

Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Conference to pave the way for new therapies

17.10.2018 | Event News

Berlin5GWeek: Private industrial networks and temporary 5G connectivity islands

16.10.2018 | Event News

5th International Conference on Cellular Materials (CellMAT), Scientific Programme online

02.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Mineral discoveries in the Galapagos Islands pose a puzzle as to their formation and origin

19.10.2018 | Earth Sciences

Less animal experiments on the horizon: Multi-organ chip awarded

19.10.2018 | Life Sciences

New method uses just a drop of blood to monitor lung cancer treatment

19.10.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>