Mother-child bond identified

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The Independent Online

The emotional bond between a child and its mother may be linked to the pleasure pathway in the brain stimulated by addictive drugs.

The emotional bond between a child and its mother may be linked to the pleasure pathway in the brain stimulated by addictive drugs.

Scientists investigating newborn laboratory mice have found a way of breaking the normally strong bond with their mother by interfering with the body's natural opiates.

Young mice lacking a working opiate system in their brain took little or no interest in their mother's absence compared to ordinary mice who cry out endlessly when she is taken away.

The scientists, led by Anna Moles of the Italian Institute of Neuroscience in Rome, say in the journal Science that their findings may explain why some mentally ill children display no emotional attachment to their mothers. Natural opiates produced "endogenously" by the brain are crucial to feelings of pleasure, including the emotional pleasure of young mice being close to a mother.

"A malfunctioning of the endogenous opiods system may be implicated in the social indifference displayed by autistic infants," the scientists say.

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