Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

By Michael Leshinski

The undeniable bond between mother and child has just gotten scientific proof to back what some of us have already known. A recent study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics revealed strong brain activity for first time mothers when there were shown a picture of their own child’s face. The study, as first reported in the NY Times, compared pictures of the mother’s own and another random newborn with similar features. It was found that the mother’s brain, upon seeing the photo of her own child’s face, underwent extensive activation specifically in the emotion processing, cognition, and motor/behavioral output sections. When photos of the random, unknown newborn were presented, the mother’s brain did not show the same levels of activation.

Throughout the study, MRI technology was used to monitor the brain activation levels in the participants. The study also found that certain neurotransmitters, such as Dopamine, were released specifically when the mother was shown the picture of her own smiling baby. Dopamine has been linked directly to areas of the brain that process feelings of reward. When the mother recognized a picture of her baby with a sad expression, the same levels of dopamine were not present. In short, there’s no reward for a crying baby. I can confirm this with my own personal experience since my brother and his wife have recently had their first child. I’ve also taken away two major realizations from the publication of this study. The first involves the scientific implications of these new findings. Maybe it is possible to use this new information to treat unfortunate conditions such as Postpartum Depression. Secondly, the study tested only first time mothers, but I believe that the bond between mother and child lasts a lifetime, even if I am the youngest of three boys.

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