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
Bioenergy cropland expansion could be as bad for biodiversity as climate change
11.12.2018 | Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseen
How glial cells develop in the brain from neural precursor cells
11.12.2018 | Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.
Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.
Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...
New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals
Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.
Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker - at the molecular level - as it is stretched.
Researchers led by Dr Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching...
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
03.12.2018 | Event News
11.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
11.12.2018 | Materials Sciences
11.12.2018 | Information Technology