Saturday, March 17, 2012

Brain scan reveals 'child care' centre in adults

We behave in a particular way because our brains are sending out signals. Brain cells, called neurons, communicate with each other, and certain areas have specialized themselves by focusing on specific tasks. We have found brain areas for movement, language, math and many other things that require our 'grey matter'. Scientists use scans that map activity in a certain area to find out which part is responsible for certain functions. Fine-tuning the technique resulted in the discovery of many more small parts with a specific function. Latest is a brain area that makes us take care of children. It appears as if providing care is hardcoded into our brain, which basically means we do not do it by choice.

Scientists showed pictures of infants to adult volunteers, all of which had not yet reproduced when they participated in the study. When the participants saw the pictures, brain scans revealed active parts of the brain involved with preparation of speech and movement. Additionally, brain centres responsible for reward and motivation were found to be active, as well as areas for facial recognition. It appears as if the brain is creating a certain pattern needed to provide the motivation for child care.
Overall, the pattern suggests that there is a mechanism built into our brains that stimulates care for children. Scientists believe it stimulates interaction with children, resulting in a feeling of reward for the adults. Therefore it seems that parental care comes natural; it is an impulse that we normally, and thankfully, cannot resist. It is also species-specific: when the scientists showed pictures of animal infants to the participants in the study, the aforementioned brain impulse was not generated.

A biological impulse to care for children is evolutionary beneficial, which explains why it seems to be hardcoded in the brain: even though the participants in the study did not have children of their own and had merely seen pictures, it still invoked the caregiving response. This is beneficial because increased infant care increases the chances of successful reproduction: parents who take care of their offspring have a higher chance of spreading their genes, which is evolutionary favourable.

The mechanism may also explain why people abuse or neglect infants. It is thought that a malfunction in the observed brain pattern found in this study may have something to do with it. Brain scans of known child abusers are needed to confirm this hypothesis, but it seems worth pursuing. Additionally, the hardcoded impulse to care for infants may also explain why society responds highly emotional to child abusers or paedophiles. 


  1. Such an informative post. This is really helpful and useful. Thank you so much for sharing this to us.

  2. Interesting study. So do you think it is wise for child care to start conducting some special experiment according to this study as part of the interviewing process? That would ensure their recruitment standard keep up with their vision for sure if they want the best for the children.

  3. No, I would not recommend that. First of all, the exact relationship between this child care centre in the brain and its effect on behaviour is not clear. Secondly, I do not think it is a good idea to discriminate based on brain patterns.

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