Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Natural High of A Baby’s Smile - Healthy Lifestyle family fitness

"Smile though your heart is aching… smile even though it’s breaking… when there are clouds in the sky you’ll get by… if you smile through your fear and sorrow… smile and maybe tomorrow… you’ll see the sun come shining through for you…”

Can’t help but enjoy the trip down memory lane via this old song of Nat King Cole about the simplicity of life and how people often neglect the simpler things in life, getting too caught up in superficial things.

A smile is a facial expression that denotes pleasure, happiness, or amusement. Smile can decrease the pain and sorrow.And the magic of smile always succeeds in lifting up the spirits of the recipient. Talk about a girl smiling back at a persistent suitor, or a male celebrity smiling back at a starstruck fan. The recipient will definitely feel encouraged and appreciated. Had it been a frown instead of a smile, it will be a totally different picture and story altogether.

A recent study about the effect of smile focuses on the relationship between a mother and her child. Obviously, seeing the baby smile provides a natural high for the mom. But this study is beyond what is obvious. It proves that seeing the baby’s smile lights up the reward center in a mother’s brain. Understanding that reaction may help explain that special mother-child bond and determine why it sometimes goes wrong.

According to researcher Lane Strathearn, MBBS, FRACP, assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, the relationship between mothers and infants is critical for child development. “For whatever reason, in some cases, that relationship doesn’t develop normally. Neglect and abuse can result, with devastating effects on a child’s development,” added Strathearn.

The study involved 28 first-time mothers who viewed images of their own child and other infants while hooked up to a functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner.

This machine provided information on the activation of different regions of the brains as the women viewed the images of the babies smiling or portraying neutral or sad emotions.

The research team found that when the mothers saw happy images of their own baby, activation increased in areas of the brain associated with reward and the neurotransmitter dopamine compared with seeing images of other babies.

Strathearn emphasized that these are the same areas that have been activated in other experiments associated with drug addiction. “It may be that seeing your own baby’s smiling face is like a ‘natural high,’” he noted.
While the mothers’ brains responded much more strongly to their own infants than to others, researchers found that the strength of such “natural-high” reaction depended on the baby’s facial expression.

Strathearn also stressed that the strongest activation was with smiling faces and that they were expecting a different reaction with sad faces. However, they found little difference in the reaction of the mothers’ brains to their own baby’s crying face compared to that of an unknown child.

Strathearn believes that understanding how a mother responds uniquely to her own infant, when smiling or crying, may be the first step in understanding the neural basis of mother-infant attachment.
It's definitely true that a smile is a “natural high,” and as the song goes, we'll find that life is still worthwhile if we just...

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