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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    • "Under normative conditions, specific infant characteristics tend to elicit a positive appraisal and associated caretaking response from adults. For example, the concept of Kindchenschema (baby schema), originally posited by Lorenz (1971), identifies infant physical characteristics (e.g., large eyes, rounded cheeks) as inherently evocative for adults, eliciting an approach response and compelling the provision of care for the immature infant (Glocker et al., 2009). Empirical work is in support of this phenomenon, finding that, compared with pictures of human adults, pictures of human infants activate the attentional system and capture the attention of adults (Brosch, Sander, & Scherer, 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: The current study tested the hypothesis that mothers who have experienced child maltreatment and aggression within their adult relationships may be at particular risk for misinterpreting infant emotions, leading to less sensitive parenting behaviors. Participants were 120 pregnant women recruited for a larger, longitudinal study investigating the role of psychosocial and environmental risk on women and their young children. Data were collected during the third trimester of pregnancy, and when children were 1 and 2 years of age. Participants completed a projective test designed to elicit individual differences in perceptions of infant emotions and an observer-rated assessment of parenting behaviors was conducted in the family home. Using structural equation modeling, we tested associations between maternal interpersonal aggression exposure and perceptions of infant emotion and parenting behaviors. Results demonstrated that a history of child abuse and intimate partner conflict were associated with a maternal tendency to view ambiguous infant facial expressions as negative (i.e., negative attribution bias), and in turn, with less parenting sensitivity over time. Findings suggest that negative attributions of infant emotion may be 1 mechanism by which a history of trauma and violence exposure contributes to less sensitive parenting for some mothers. Implications for intervention include the need for trauma-informed clinical services and psychoeducational methods that help mothers more accurately read and respond to infant emotional expression and bids for connection. (PsycINFO Database Record
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Emotion
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015
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    • "Manyofthecorebrainregionsengagedinemotionprocessing arealsoinvolvedwithcoreprocessingofempathy,notably theMCC,INS,andOFC(Fanetal.,2011),andother regionsintheempathynetworkalsoshowstrongactivation inresponsetoinfantfaces,notablytheposteriorsuperior temporalsulcus(pSTS;Leibenluftetal.,2004),supplementary motorarea(SMA—BA6)andprecentralgyrus(preCG;Caria etal.,2012),STG(Ranoteetal.,2004;Stoeckeletal.,2014), PCU(Leibenluftetal.,2004;Glockeretal.,2009b),right supramarginalgyrus(SMG—BA40)(Leibenluftetal.,2004), andalsocerebellum(Ranoteetal.,2004;Glockeretal.,2009b) (Figure1C).Overallthispatternofenhancedactivityinempathy processingregionssuggeststhatitmaycontributetobetter identificationofemotionsbeingexpressed(cognitiveempathy) andenhancedempathicfeelingstowardtheinfant(affective empathy).Furthermore,increasedactivityinpreCGandSMA "
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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.
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