As tears go by: Baby tears trigger more brain activity than adult tears in nulliparous women

M. M.E. Riem, M. H. van IJzendoorn, P. De Carli, A. J.J.M. Vingerhoets, M. J. Bakermans-Kranenburg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


The current functional magnetic resonance imaging study examines brain activity during the perception of infant and adult tears. Infant tears evoke stronger responses in the visual cortex than adult tears, indicating that infant tears are highly salient. In addition, our study shows that infant tears uniquely activate somatosensory pain regions, which could stimulate actions directed at the elimination of the source of pain. Shedding tears may be a strong means to elicit the parent’s sharing of the infant’s feelings, thereby strengthening caregiver-infant bonding and securing infant survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-636
Number of pages4
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes



  • caregiver-infant bonding
  • crying
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Infant tears
  • somatosensory pain regions

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