Have you ever looked at a baby, and everyone is making a fuss over it and talking about it being this super adorable little being, and you thought, Nope. That kid is ugly. Well, this could mean one of two things; either the baby is, indeed, not that cute (which, come on, is totally possible), or you are addicted to opioids. (Sorry.) Science is telling us that not everyone finds babies cute. Even the ones who actually are cute to most people — you know the types, little cherubs, chubby cheeks, big, bright eyes. Those fat wrists that look like they're wearing bracelets. There are some people out there who don't even find those super babies cute, science tells us.
During a recent study, people with an opioid dependency (pain relief drugs like Percocet, Oxycontin, and Vicodin) were shown pictures of cute babies, and when they viewed those images, the part of the brain that is linked to reward din't show signs of activity, according to Live Science. When those same people were given medications to help block the opioids, their reward centers lit up. Are you, like me, wondering which one of the researchers got to pick out cute babies and cast the non-cute babies aside? It turns out there are a series of traits called "facial schema" that were identified in a 2009 study to define baby cuteness. Features like big eyes, large forehead, and small chins were all part of the facial schema for babies.
Dr. Daniel Langleben, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and the senior author of the study, found that the 47 individuals with opioid dependencies did not respond to the facial schema of the adorable babies before treatment. However, 10 days after beginning treatment with naltrexone, an opioid blocker, these same individuals responded "in a way more similar to that of healthy people," Dr. Langleben said in a statement.
The study, which was carried out by the University of Pennsylvania, brought up another issue; whether or not people with opioid dependencies struggled with social cognition in general.
In summary, treatment with opioid modulators seems to be changing the brain response to baby schema and may modulate our motivation to care for others. Our data also raise the question whether opioid medications may affect social cognition in general. Depending on the clinical context such effect could be either desirable or not. Opioids are some of the most common medications in the world, often taken on a long term basis, so this is something to consider.
So the next time you are at the grocery store and someone tells you that your baby isn't cute, just remember they might have an opioid dependency so they really can't tell.