Strathearn, with a laugh, concedes the data's "no-duh" tinge. But the work provides a baseline of the neural basis of "normal" attachment between mothers and their kids. Strathearn, a developmental pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital, investigates cases of child abuse and neglect. "Obviously these [reward] pathways aren't in place in all mothers," he said. "First we need to know how the system normally operates, and the next step is looking at what happens when these systems aren't functioning properly." To that end, he and his colleagues are now comparing fMRI scans of mothers who are at high risk for abusing or neglecting their child with those of the baseline study to see if that warm and fuzzy feeling, scientifically speaking, is absent or diminished.