Science · Technology

Brain imaging study finds evidence of basis for caregiving impulse

Distinct patterns of activity– which may indicate a predisposition to care for infants — appear in the brains of adults who view an image of an infant face — even when the child is not theirs, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and in Germany, Italy, and Japan.

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.

The findings raise the possibility that studying this activity will yield insights into care giving behavior, but also in cases of child neglect or abuse.

“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 senior author Marc H. Bornstein, Ph.D., head of the Child and Family Research Section of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the NIH institute that collaborated on the study.

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