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Baby's Smile Lights Up Mom's Brain
Date:7/7/2008

A crying infant didn't evoke same response, study found,,,,

MONDAY, July 7 (HealthDay News) -- Science may have confirmed what most moms already know: When a woman sees her baby smile, certain areas of her brain activate, stimulating happy feelings.

"There's a definite biological origin to these feelings that mothers have," said study author Dr. Lane Strathearn, an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "The contrast that showed the most response in the dopaminergic system of the brain was when a mother's own baby smiled compared to an unknown baby face."

"A baby's smile is a very powerful stimulus," noted Strathearn. "It makes sense biologically. Babies are completely and utterly dependent on their caregivers. It makes sense that nature would build in a system that would reinforce that relationship."

A woman's crying infant, or even her baby with a neutral expression, doesn't evoke the same type of brain response as occurs when her baby is smiling, the study found.

Strathearn said they haven't had a chance to look at the effects on fathers. His team published its findings in the July issue of Pediatrics.

For the study, the researchers recruited 28 first-time mothers during their last trimester of pregnancy. At that time, Strathearn said the women completed "attachment interviews" to assess the types of experiences they had when being raised and what type of relationship these mothers had with their own parents.

The average age of the women was 29, and most had at least a college degree. Thirteen of the women were white, seven were black, four were Hispanic, and four listed their race as other. Most of the women -- 20 -- were married.

Then the researchers met with the mothers and the babies when the babies were about 6 months old. At that time, they videotaped them and captured smiling, crying and neutral pictur
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