THE BLOG
08/04/2013 11:29 am ET | Updated Oct 04, 2013

Wired to Prefer 'Cute, Sexy and Sweet'

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

Our brains are wired up to prefer "cute, sexy, and sweet" as Dr. Dan Dennett said. Such a mechanism is essentially important for human beings to survive and to preserve the human species, and it is a biological principle. In addition, there is no designer who knows how to make this mechanism. Recent neuroscience has provided rich evidence that our brain is a self-organizing apparatus which can change and develop itself such that we can adaptively survive. Now, our brain may be the product of evolutionary development and exquisite construction.

According to Dr. Konrad Lorenz, he defined the baby schema "as a set of infantile physical features, such as large head, big eyes, high and protruding forehead, chubby cheeks, small nose and mouth, short and thick extremities, and plump body shape, that are perceived as cute and motivate caretaking behavior in humans." Such bias could be evolutionally adaptive and enhance offspring survival, and such baby body and face schema modulates the brain reward system which motivates caretaking. So, a baby can also be neuroscientifically said to be a "supernormal stimulus" as Dr. Dan Dennett said.

Moreover, in other words, we can say that the mother's own baby is her own reward and her own life, because her brain is actually wired in a way where the integrative relationships between the reward and interoceptive information processing systems are very critical. -- Yoshiaki Kikuchi and Madoka Noriuchi

Furthermore, our recent study (Biological Psychiatry, 2008) has shown that the mother's brain is specifically wired up to care for her own baby. That is, the mother's baby is specifically a supernormal stimulus for her, so it can be called a "super supernormal stimulus". We recently found that only four brain regions play specifically important roles in the mother's brain which is wired for loving her own baby. These brain regions are the orbitofrontal cortex, anterior insula, periaqueductal gray, and putamen. The orbitofrontal cortex is highly important for reward processing such as feeling love and motivating maternal behavior. The orbitofrontal cortex, insula and periaqueductal gray are included in the interoceptive information processing system, and they are related to, what is called, "homeostatic emotion" which means the emotion specifically important for homeostasis, something essential for human life. The putamen is related to the reinforced motor learning which reinforces significant behavior for us based on evaluations of their reward value. To sum up, the mother's brain is wired in such a way that the orbitofrontal cortex integrates the two systems, that is, the reward system and the interoceptive information processing system, and such integrative brain activity motivates maternal behavior. Moreover, in other words, we can say that the mother's own baby is her own reward and her own life, because her brain is actually wired in a way where the integrative relationships between the reward and interoceptive information processing systems are very critical.

The mother's brain is well wired to guide maternal behavior in which she makes sacrifices that are necessary to care for her own baby day and night. Loving the baby is the dynamo that empowers her to maintain never-ending vigilance and sustain exhausting toil for the protection and nurture of her own baby. When the mother's wired brain is activated by her own baby, that is, a "super supernormal stimulus", she may actually and automatically feel some special feelings called "maternal love."

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