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Nurture, Nature, or Just Chemicals?

Posted on February 15th, 2017 by in Chemicals Industry News and Analysis

brain synapse

By Allan Ajifo [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Is there more to the old adage ‘there is no greater bond than between a mother and her child’ than merely conventional wisdom? Seems science has a thing or two to say on the matter.

A study recently published in PNAS Online suggests dopamine – the brain’s pleasure chemical – plays a critical role in human maternal bonding not only during infancy but throughout the child’s lifespan. The research used a novel approach, studying the maternal behavior in humans as previous studies on the neurochemistry of synaptic transmission have been completed on rodents. The study notes that having a large range of influences, the social life of humans is far more complex than other mammals so cannot be adequately captured using nonhuman scientific models.

Researchers in the study utilized a group of nineteen mothers and their babies, measuring the activity in the medial amygdala network – the area of the brain supporting human social functioning. Responses were measured for brain activity associated with interactivity between mothers and their own infants as well as with infants belonging to others.

Discussing the research in an article published by United Press International, the study’s lead author, Shir Atzil, post-doctoral fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, noted that more dopamine was secreted by mothers watching their own babies. Tying the research to the nurture side of the argument, Atzil said, “Mothers who secrete more dopamine were more likely to provide optimal care for their infants, were more sensitive to their infants’ needs, and adjusted their own behavior to meet those needs.”

Curious to know more about how dopamine is involved in neurotransmission activity in the brain? The following video from the folks over at Wylde on Health concisely explains the process.

Whether you advocate the ‘nature’ side or the ‘nurture’ side, this latest evidence suggests a combination of the two. With two children of my own who have both grown to adulthood, I can certainly attest to the pleasure of their company and in seeing them succeed. Perhaps an MRI-PET scanner could confirm the chemistry involved in my reaction, but I’ll simply settle for the feeling.

How have new research methods changed the way you look at the world? Tell us about your quest for unconventional knowledge and what it could mean for the future of your products or companies. Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite social media channel.


All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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