Once believed to be the brain\’s \”threat detector,\” new information from the University of Illinois suggests that the amygdala plays a vital role in determining how people respond to people in a potential partner throughout their lives C even while those responses change over time.
In findings reported earlier this week in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, UI psychology and Beckman Institute professor Eva Telzer and her colleagues explain they found signals for the reason that part of the brain which reflect both aversion of members of the alternative gender in small children, and the growing curiosity about the other sex that often takes place during puberty.
Telzer and her colleagues evaluated the attitudes of 93 children towards both their same-sex and opposite-sex peers, and used functional MRI scans to trace the flow of oxygenated blood in the brains of 52 youngsters. They discovered that the amygdalas of children between four and seven respond more to opposite-sex faces, but saw no difference in older prepubescent kids.
The UI professor explained that it hadn\’t been surprising that very young children seriously consider gender: \”We know that there are developmental changes in the significance of gender boundaries in small children. We know of the whole ‘cooties’ phenomenon,\” in which young children behave as if people in a potential partner could infect them with some parasite or disease when they get too close. Children only at that age prefer company of their same-sex peers, she noted.
\”Only the youngest children within our sample demonstrated a behavioral sex bias so that they rated same-sex peers as having better (and fewer negative) attributes than opposite-sex peers,\” they wrote. The interest in opposite-sex peers has a tendency to fade later in childhood, Telzer added, and also the amygdala of 10- to 12-year-old kids did not respond differently in any way when show faces of both same-sex and opposite-sex peers.
Once puberty hits, the youngsters once more become increasingly interested in members of the opposite-sex, plus they may begin experiencing a crush C becoming infatuated having a person in the other gender, the nation\’s Institute of Mental Health-funded study concluded.
\”When puberty hits, gender gets to be more significant again, whether it’s since your body is changing, or due to sexual attraction or else you have become aware of more rigid sexual boundaries as you grow more sexually mature,\” said Telzer. \”The brain is responding very appropriately, in terms of what’s changing developmentally.\”