Unless you are Scrooge McDuck or have a life-size poster of Dr. Eric R. Pianka
on your wall, you probably like to see babies smile. It isn't just you. In a mother, her baby's smile also lights up the reward centers of her brain, just like free money, wrote Baylor College of Medicine researchers in Pediatrics today.
Not only could findings like this help scientists learn more about the magic of the mother-infant bond, it could also tell us how it sometimes goes wrong, said Dr. Lane Strathearn, assistant professor of pediatrics at BCM and Texas Children's Hospital and a research associate in BCM's Human Neuroimaging Laboratory.
To study this relationship, Strathearn and his colleagues asked 28 first-time mothers with infants aged 5 to 10 months to watch photos of their own babies and other infants while they were in a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner. The machine measures blood flow in the brain. In the scans, areas of increased blood flow "light up," giving researchers a clue as to where brain activity takes place.