In many parts of the world this week Mother’s Day will rightly celebrate a Mother’s love and dedication to her brood.
Given the many, many seen (and unseen!) tasks mothers do, calculating the hours of commitment and slog, and just thinking about the calamities of childbirth, the question does arise: where do Mums get their drive to raise a family?
Well, it’s kind of a drug. In fact a mother’s love for her child has an outrageously intoxicating effect on the brain.
Maternal love has been found to switch off the parts of the brain involving negative emotions and social judgement (in the right prefrontal cortex – that is, your right forehead area) and also deactivates the parts of your brain that produce fear, angst and aggression (in the amygdala – an almond-shaped structure found in the middle of your brain).
Maternal love also been found to switch on the very old, very primal parts of the brain that seek reward and pleasure and that are satisfied by in it the form of pure, straight dopamine – a very happy, “drive”-giving substance that gives exactly the same effects as a drug; pupils dilate, the heart races, and the body lets off streams of anxiety-quashing chemicals from just the hug from an offspring, or even by looking at their photo.
Interestingly for women, maternal love activates very similar areas of the brain as romantic love, with the exception of the memory area which activates more when looking at images of your hubby.
Also in maternal love, looking at pictures of your child causes your brain area associated with empathy to erupt in activity, (explaining the urge to take care of the infant), whereas in romantic love, empathy activity is caused in relation to touch (that is, women can understand the kind intention behind it).
Happy Mothers Day to all the women out there who bring so much happiness and buzz to all their children’s lives.
We can only hope we do the same for you in droves 🙂
Overlap between activity of maternal love and romantic love. Romantic love red, yellow is maternal. LPF = prefrontal cortex (involved in social judgement), A= amygdala (involved in fear, aggression), PC= posterior cingulate cortex (involved in negative emotions), OP = occipital parietal (involved when seeing things e.g. photos of someone you love), MP = medial parietal (involved in empathy)