Baby schema modulates the brain reward system in nulliparous women

Brain Behavior Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 06/2009; 106(22):9115-9. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0811620106
Source: PubMed


Ethologist Konrad Lorenz defined the baby schema ("Kindchenschema") as a set of infantile physical features, such as round face and big eyes, that is perceived as cute and motivates caretaking behavior in the human, with the evolutionary function of enhancing offspring survival. The neural basis of this fundamental altruistic instinct is not well understood. Prior studies reported a pattern of brain response to pictures of children, but did not dissociate the brain response to baby schema from the response to children. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging and controlled manipulation of the baby schema in infant faces, we found that baby schema activates the nucleus accumbens, a key structure of the mesocorticolimbic system mediating reward processing and appetitive motivation, in nulliparous women. Our findings suggest that engagement of the mesocorticolimbic system is the neurophysiologic mechanism by which baby schema promotes human caregiving, regardless of kinship.

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Available from: Ruben Gur, Sep 30, 2015
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    • "Cuteness describes a type of attractiveness commonly associated with youth and appearance, which activates in others the motivation to care [6]. Recent studies suggest that cute images stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain which is closely related with the positive emotion of human [3]. This explains why everybody prefers cute persons or stuff in social network, shopping, browsing images/videos on the web and so on. "
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    ABSTRACT: With the development of Internet culture, cuteness has become a popular concept. Many people are curious about what factors making a person look cute. However, there is rare research to answer this interesting question. In this work, we construct a dataset of personal images with comprehensively annotated cuteness scores and facial attributes to investigate this high-level concept in depth. Based on this dataset, through an automatic attributes mining process, we find several critical attributes determining the cuteness of a person. We also develop a novel Continuous Latent Support Vector Machine (C-LSVM) method to predict the cuteness score of one person given only his image. Extensive evaluations validate the effectiveness of the proposed method for cuteness prediction.
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    • "Onlyasmallnumberofstudieshavespecificallyinvestigated theimpactoftheintensityofbabyschemafeaturesininfant faceseitherbycomparingresponsestothefacesofinfants(high babyschema)andchildren(lowbabyschema)orthroughdirect manipulationofbabyschemafeaturesinspecificfacestimuli. Fromthesestudiesthereisevidencethatintensityofbabyschema doesinfluenceneuralresponsesinvisualandfaceprocessing regionsaswellasinregionscontrollingemotionalresponses, attentionandmemory,theoryofmindandreward.AnERPstudy foundthatN1amplitudelocalizedintheFFGwasincreased inresponsetoinfantfacescomparedtoadult,althoughnot childfaces,inbothmalesandfemales.OntheotherhandN2 amplitudelocalizedinthemedialoccipitalcortexandFFG,uncus andmedialOFCwasincreasedinresponsetoinfantcompared withchildandadultfaces,althoughonlyinfemales(Proverbio etal.,2011b).AnfMRIstudywhichspecificallymanipulatedthe intensityofbabyfeaturesfoundthatinfantfaceswithhighbaby schemafeatures,andwhichwereratedtobeverycute,produced strongeractivationthanoneswithlowbabyschemafeaturesin therightNAcc,leftACC(BA24),leftPCU(BA7),andleftFFG (Glockeretal.,2009b).Interestingly,anotherfMRIstudyshowed thatadultfaceswithababy-facedappearanceandinfantfaces evokedgreateractivationinthesamebrainregions(AMYand FFA)thanmorematurelookingadultfaces,andalsostimulated greaterfunctionalconnectivitybetweenthem(Zebrowitzetal., 2009).However,itshouldbenotedthattheenhancedimpactof babyfacesonAMYandOFCresponsesisdisruptediftheinfant facehasphysicalanomalies,whichdisruptthebabyschema (Baekenetal.,2010a;Parsonsetal.,2013).Overalltherefore evidencefromthesestudiesindicatesthatinfantfaceswithhigh babyschemaaremorelikelytoevokegreaterresponsesinbrain regionsprocessingfaces,attention,emotionandpositivereward thanthosewithlowbabyschema. "
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    ABSTRACT: We find infant faces highly attractive as a result of specific features which Konrad Lorenz termed "Kindchenschema" or "baby schema," and this is considered to be an important adaptive trait for promoting protective and caregiving behaviors in adults, thereby increasing the chances of infant survival. This review first examines the behavioral support for this effect and physical and behavioral factors which can influence it. It then provides details of the increasing number of neuroimaging and electrophysiological studies investigating the neural circuitry underlying this baby schema effect in parents and non-parents of both sexes. Next it considers potential hormonal contributions to the baby schema effect in both sexes and the neural effects associated with reduced responses to infant cues in post-partum depression, anxiety and drug taking. Overall the findings reviewed reveal a very extensive neural circuitry involved in our perception of cuteness in infant faces, with enhanced activation compared to adult faces being found in brain regions involved in face perception, attention, emotion, empathy, memory, reward and attachment, theory of mind and also control of motor responses. Both mothers and fathers also show evidence for enhanced responses in these same neural systems when viewing their own as opposed to another child. Furthermore, responses to infant cues in many of these neural systems are reduced in mothers with post-partum depression or anxiety or have taken addictive drugs throughout pregnancy. In general reproductively active women tend to rate infant faces as cuter than men, which may reflect both heightened attention to relevant cues and a stronger activation in their brain reward circuitry. Perception of infant cuteness may also be influenced by reproductive hormones with the hypothalamic neuropeptide oxytocin being most strongly associated to date with increased attention and attraction to infant cues in both sexes.
    Frontiers in Psychology 07/2015; 6:970. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00970 · 2.80 Impact Factor
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    • "In conclusion, our analyses of women's responses to high-cuteness versus low-cuteness versions of infant faces suggest that testosterone, rather than estradiol or progesterone, may modulate the reward value of infant facial cuteness. These data extend previous research suggesting that testosterone increases protective parenting behaviors and decreases nurturance (van Anders et al., 2011), by demonstrating that testosterone might also enhance differential responses to infant facial cues that play an important role in the selective allocation of parental resources (Alley, 1983b; Glocker et al., 2009). While previous work on links between hormone levels and responses to facial cues investigated women's responses to characteristics in adult faces, our research demonstrates that changes in women's hormone levels also covary with the reward value of infant facial cuteness. "
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    ABSTRACT: “Baby schema” refers to infant characteristics, such as facial cues, that positively influence cuteness perceptions and trigger caregiving and protective behaviors in adults. Current models of hormonal regulation of parenting behaviors address how hormones may modulate protective behaviors and nurturance, but not how hormones may modulate responses to infant cuteness. To explore this issue, we investigated possible relationships between the reward value of infant facial cuteness and within-woman changes in testosterone, estradiol, and progesterone levels. Multilevel modeling of these data showed that infant cuteness was more rewarding when women’s salivary testosterone levels were high. Moreover, this within-woman effect of testosterone was independent of the possible effects of estradiol and progesterone and was not simply a consequence of changes in women’s cuteness perceptions. These results suggest that testosterone may modulate differential responses to infant facial cuteness, potentially revealing a new route through which testosterone shapes selective allocation of parental resources.
    Hormones and Behavior 12/2014; 67. DOI:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2014.11.010 · 4.63 Impact Factor
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