Brain scan can reveal your love for babies

London: Everyone loves babies. But, how much in-built love a person has for a toddler can be revealed by a brain scan, say scientists.

In its research, a team at National Institutes of Health in Germany, Italy and Japan used a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner to analyse reactions of volunteers – seven men and nine women who were shown pictures of babies.

The results revealed patterns of activity that showed that some people wanted to care for the infant – even though the baby didn`t belong to them, the `Daily Mail` reported.
 
Seeing images of infant faces appeared to activate in the adult`s brains circuits that reflect preparation for movement and speech as well as feelings of reward. "These adults have no children of their own, yet images of a baby`s face triggered what we think might be a deeply embedded response to reach out and care for that child," said lead scientist Marc H Bornstein of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

While the scientists recorded participants` brain activity, the subjects did not speak or move. Yet their brain activity was typical of patterns preceding such actions as picking up or talking to an infant.

The activity pattern could represent a biological impulse that governs adults` interactions with small children. From their study results, the scientists concluded that this pattern is specific to seeing human infants. The pattern did not appear when the participants looked at the photos of adults or of animals – even baby animals.

When the researchers compared the areas and strength of brain activity in response to each kind of image, they found that infant images evoked more activity than any of the other images in three key brain areas.

Firstly in the premotor cortex and the supplemental motor area, which are regions of the brain directly under the crown of the head. These regions orchestrate brain impulses preceding speech and movement but before movement takes place.

Secondly in the fusiform gyrus – on each side of the brain, about where the ears are – which processes information about faces. Activity the researchers detected in the fusiform gyrus may indicate heightened attention to the movement and expressions on an infant`s face, the researchers said.

Thirdly, there was heightened activity in the insula and the cingulate cortex, which is associated with emotional arousal, empathy, attachment and feelings linked to reward.

The subjects reported feeling more willing to approach, smile at, and communicate with an infant than an adult. They also recorded feeling happier when viewing images of infants.

However, signs of readiness to care for a child that appear in the brains of some or even most adults do not necessarily mean the same patterns will appear in the brains of all adults, Dr Bornstein said in the `NeuroImage` journal.

"It`s equally important to investigate what`s happening in the brains of those who have neglected or abused children. Additional studies could help us confirm and understand what appears to be a parenting instinct in adults, both when the instinct functions and when it fails to function," he added.