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Opioids Can Affect Your Perception Of Babies' Cuteness, Study Warns

Opioids Can Affect Your Perception Of Babies' Cuteness, Study Warns

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First Posted: Sep 21, 2016 05:05 AM EDT
Happy Baby
Drug dependency has to stop, as it may lead to babies' safety from those who take these. (Photo used for representation only.)
(Photo : John Downing / Express / Getty Images)

Opioid addiction has been prevalent recently. And in the effort to determine those who are hooked on this drug, a small study presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress in Vienna, Austria suggested that finding babies cute is most likely an indication that people want to care for others and lack of this emotion can limit a person's caretaking capabilities which are indicative of opioid dependency.

According to Medical Daily, studies show that about 4 million people in the United States are hooked to opioids, which involves the prohibited drugs such as heroin and other prescription pain medications. The common results of this dependency would be the reduction of response to natural reward, crimes, irresponsible parenting and abnormal social behavior.

Experts studying the behavior of opioid dependent adults use the method called "Baby Schema" which is a typical visual characteristic of human and animal babies. The images are given to be adorable or cute to non-opioid users. The images include appearances such as big foreheads, large eyes, and small chins; subconsciously we recognize them to be as characteristics babies use to catch people's attention.

This method also used by an earlier study at the Universities of Pennsylvania in the US and Muenster in Germany on how people react to baby portraits. Science Daily reported that it showed that the reaction to the specific images produces a desire for caretaking and a response in the area of the brain connected with a reward according to the "Baby Schema" content or cuteness of the images.

For the new study, researchers randomly selected 47 people who were known to be dependent on opioids and who were already in the early stage of their treatment program. The brains of these participants were scanned while they look at photos of cute babies. The pictures were views 10 days before and after starting the treatment reported Live Science.

Results showed that at first, the brains of people with opioid dependence did not respond to the baby schema, explained Dr. Daniel Langleben, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and the senior author of the study. However, as soon as the participants started their treatment and were given a drug called naltrexone which blocks the effects of opioids, their brains started to respond in a way that was similar to how the brains of healthy people respond, Langleban said.

Meanwhile, the researchers believe that the findings may provide an explanation as to why people with opioid dependence may have problems with social cognition in general.

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