Brain News – Researchers scanned grandmothers’ brains when they are seeing photos of their young grandchildren and provided a neural snapshot of this special, inter-generational bond.
In a new study, researchers at Emory University examined 50 healthy grandmothers to understand their brains and how that may relate to the benefits they provide to their families. The participants were asked to complete questionnaires related to their experiences as grandmothers and undergo functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure their brain function when they viewed photos of their grandchildren, an unknown child, the same-sex parent of the grandchild, and an unknown adult.
As per the findings, grandmothers showed stronger activation in an area of their brain associated with emotional empathy when they viewed their grandchildren’s pictures. Similarly, when viewing the photos of their adult child, grandmothers showed stronger activation in an area of the brain associated with cognitive empathy. It suggested that they may be trying to cognitively understand what their adult child is thinking or feeling and why.
The research result stated that grandmothers who had more strongly activated areas associated with cognitive empathy while seeing their grandchildren’s pictures reported that they desired greater involvement in caring for their grandchildren. The researchers compared the result of an earlier study of fathers viewing photos of their children with the findings of the recent study and discovered that grandmothers had more strongly activated regions involved with emotional empathy and motivation, on average, when viewing images of their grandchildren.
“Young children have likely evolved traits to be able to manipulate not just the maternal brain, but the grand maternal brain. An adult child doesn’t have the same cute ‘factor,’ so they may not elicit the same emotional response,” said James Rilling, lead author of the study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. According to him, grandmothers are the most important caregivers next to mothers.
To Know More You May Refer To:
Rilling, J. K., Gonzalez, A., & Lee, M. (2021). The neural correlates of grandmaternal caregiving. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 288(1963). https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.1997