MRI of Mother and Child Shows Love Through The Eyes of Science

Illustration for article titled MRI of Mother and Child Shows Love Through The Eyes of Science

MIT neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe captured this stunning MRI image of herself and her child inside a 3 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging scanner, creating an emotionally striking yet abstract work of art.

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Saxe wrote about this image in Smithsonian Magazine:

To some people, this image was a disturbing reminder of the fragility of human beings. Others were drawn to the way that the two figures, with their clothes and hair and faces invisible, became universal, and could be any human mother and child, at any time or place in history. Still others were simply captivated by how the baby’s brain is different from his mother’s; it’s smaller, smoother and darker—literally, because there’s less white matter.

Here is a depiction of one of the hardest problems in neuroscience: How will changes in that specific little organ accomplish the unfolding of a whole human mind?

As for me, I saw a very old image made new. The Mother and Child is a powerful symbol of love and innocence, beauty and fertility. Although these maternal values, and the women who embody them, may be venerated, they are usually viewed in opposition to other values: inquiry and intellect, progress and power. But I am a neuroscientist, and I worked to create this image; and I am also the mother in it, curled up inside the tube with my infant son.

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Image credit: Rebecca Saxe and Atsushi Takahashi / Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT / Athinoula A. Martinos Imaging Center at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, MIT

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DISCUSSION

...how the baby’s brain is different from his mother’s; it’s smaller, smoother and darker—literally, because there’s less white matter...

It’s still pretty close in size to the mother’s brain. The fact that it’s smaller at all is interesting - modern human brains continue to grow for about five years after birth, whereas the brains of most mammals are near their adult size at birth.

I wonder how old this baby was when the picture was taken? Couldn’t find anything in the original article.