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Article

Brain responses differ to faces of mothers and fathers

Brain and Cognition. 2010. Vol. 74. No. 1. P. 47-51.

We encounter many faces each day but relatively few are personally familiar. Once faces are familiar, they evoke semantic and social information known about the person. Neuroimaging studies demonstrate differential brain activity to familiar and non-familiar faces; however, brain responses related to personally familiar faces have been more rarely studied. We examined brain activity with fMRI in adults in response to faces of their mothers and fathers compared to faces of celebrities and strangers. Overall, faces of mothers elicited more activity in core and extended brain regions associated with face processing, compared to fathers, celebrity or stranger faces. Fathers’ faces elicited activity in the caudate, a deep brain structure associated with feelings of love. These new findings of differential brain responses elicited by faces of mothers and fathers are consistent with psychological research on attachment, evident even during adulthood.