American researchers have found that grandmothers who view photos of their grandchildren activate brain areas associated with emotional empathy, indicating that the women are trying to understand their children’s feelings. The results of the experiment are cited in an article published November 17 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.
The authors of the study, which involved 50 grandmothers with at least one grandchild or one granddaughter between the ages of three and 12 years. The experts asked the participants to fill out questionnaires about the amount of time they spent with their children.
The scientists then used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study the grandmothers’ brain activity as they looked at pictures of their grandchildren, as well as their mothers and unknown adults and children. As a result, the researchers found that the grandmothers had activated brain areas associated with emotional empathy.
In other words, explained the experts, we are talking about the ability to experience the same feelings and emotions as the other person. At the same time, according to the data cited, the moment grandmothers looked at pictures of their daughters, they had more activation of brain areas associated with cognitive empathy – the ability to understand the other person’s point of view.
“Young children have probably developed traits that allow them to manipulate not only their mothers’ brains, but also their grandmothers’ brains <...>. Our results are further evidence of the existence of a shared parental care system in the brain,” concluded the paper’s lead author, Emory University professor James Rilling.