Washington: Doting eyes and chubby cheeks of a baby can send many into a heartwarming swoon. Now scientists claim that your affection for an infant actually stems from your brain, not heart.
The findings, published in journal NeuroImage, suggest that such brain-activity patterns may represent some deep biological impulse driving adults` interactions with kids, the
The study also builds on past research suggesting an evolutionary link between the cuteness factor of babies and care giving by adults, they said.
"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," study author Marc Bornstein, of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the US, was quoted as saying by LiveScience.
For their study, an international team led by Bornstein showed a group of men and women a series of photos while recording their brain activity with a functional magnetic
resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner.
The participants viewed images showing the faces of puppies, kittens, full-grown dogs and cats, human infants and human adults.
When viewing human infants, participants showed brain activity in regions that would typically "light up" just before picking up a child or talking to an infant -- a pattern
that didn`t show up when participants looked at photos of animals, even baby animals, the researchers noted.
Specifically, the team found increased activity in the premotor cortex and the supplemental motor area (both right under the crown of the head), which directs brain impulses just before voicing something or physically moving.
According to the researchers, increased activity related to seeing infant faces was also found in the fusiform gyrus, on each side of the brain near the ears, a brain area linked
to facial recognition.
The other regions activated were related to emotion and reward and included areas deep in the brain called the insula and the cingulated cortex, they said.
Past studies have suggested activity in these brain areas is linked with parents responding to their own infants. Other research has also found young women are better than men as
well as older women at spotting cute baby faces.
In that study, women on the pill were quicker at spotting a cute infant than those not on the pill, suggesting sex hormones are involved in the phenomenon.