How ‘Cooties’ and ‘Crushes’ Are Encoded In Developing Brains

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[Source: Psych Central]

amygdala

Researchers have found a signal in the brain that reflects young children’s aversion to members of the opposite sex — the “cooties” effect — and also their growing interest in the opposite sex as they enter puberty. Both responses are encoded in the brain structure called the amygdala, according to researchers at University of Illinois.

The amygdala was once thought of as a “threat detector,” said psychology professor Dr. Eva Telzer, who led the new analysis.

“But increasing evidence indicates that it is activated whenever someone detects something meaningful in the environment,” she said. “It is a significance detector.”

For the study, researchers evaluated 93 children’s attitudes toward same-sex and opposite-sex peers. Using functional MRI, which tracks how oxygenated blood flows in the brain, the researchers also analyzed brain activity in 52 children.

The finding that very young children pay close attention to gender is not a surprise, Telzer said.

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