Can a parent’s instinct be measured? Is it something you learn or something that’s ‘wired in’?
With only a few days until the Brain Power Conference we’ll be spending a lot of time learning about how a child’s brain develops – and show that a parent’s interactions with a child have a major impact on cognitive development. But what about the parent’s brain?
Researchers from The National Institute of Health along with scientists from Germany, Japan and, Italy have shown that the ‘parenting instinct’ is actually a specific response wired into our brains.Science daily reports on a study involving adults, who currently have no children of their own, who had FMRIs (brain scans) while being shown pictures of infants, adult humans and, both adult and baby animals.
The results were enlightening: participants showed significantly more brain activity while viewing the faces of human infants than they did from adult or animal faces.
Marc H. Bornstein from Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development said that “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”
The participants did not move or speak while undergoing the FMRI. The areas of the brain that lit up were indicative of how the brain looks when a person is about to care for an infant, showing that caregiver impulses are in fact physiological. The study reported that the areas of the brain were activated included:
“Premotor and preverbal activity — The researchers documented increased activity in the premotor cortex and the supplemental motor area, which are regions of the brain directly under the crown of the head. These regions orchestrate brain impulses preceding speech and movement but before movement takes place.
Facial recognition — Activity in the fusiform gyrus — on each side of the brain, about where the ears are — is associated with processing of information about faces. Activity the researchers detected in the fusiform gyrus may indicate heightened attention to the movement and expressions on an infant’s face, the researchers said.
Emotion and reward — Activity deep in the brain areas known as the insula and the cingulate cortex indicated emotional arousal, empathy, attachment and feelings linked to motivation and reward, the researchers said. Other studies have documented a similar pattern of activity in the brains of parents responding to their own infants.”
The research finally shows that the ‘parenting impulse’ isn’t just activated when a person has a child of their own, but are innate to the human brain. Further research in this area can not only help parents better understand their feelings but may also bring about new insight into why some parents can be neglectful or abusive, perhaps saving a child in the process.