The power of a mother’s love is so vast and so great that it’s almost impossible to put into words. Now, thanks to a recent study conducted by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, a mother’s love appears to have taken on yet another significant trait — the power to help reduce infant pain.
Analyzing a Mother’s Presence
In the study, researchers sought to prove just how influential the caring and nurturing effects of mothers can be on infants. Using a mouse model, experts were able to genetically analyze the amygdala portion of the brain— the area responsible for processing emotions. They determined the genes active in the brain when the mother was present and when she was absent, and also the difference in genes expressed when the infant was in pain. With the mother present, far fewer genes for pain were expressed. This signifies a pain reducing effect, brought about simply by the mother’s presence.
Infant Pain Reduction
Treatments such as opiate drugs, used for pain management, are often too extreme and the risk of addiction is far too high. Therefore, alternative options are being explored for safer pain relief in infants. Yet because genetic modifications in the brain are occurring in this mouse model, this type of treatment may have an impact on early brain development. This suggests there might be long term effects. There is also a risk in forming a relationship between pain stimuli and a mother’s love.
This NYU Langone Medical Center study is the first to show the short term effects of maternal care giving on a distressed infant. Not only is this data important in the field of medicine, it also helps to shed light on the treatment of long term problems arising from pain, and physical and mental abuse experienced during infancy.