Optimal Noises of Frustration: An fMRI Study
Bunny, Bun Bun1 and Bunny, Bunlet2
1. Department of Whining and Screeching, BunBunnery College. 2. Department of Poking and Wiggling, University of the Uterus.
Previous research (Bunny, 2011) has shown that a wide range of distress cries is equally effective in evoking caregiver response. However, little is known about Noises of Frustration (NOF, noises which signal frustration as opposed to true distress). Many babies report that their NOF are ineffective, but there are multiple potential causes of this problem, including caregiver habituation, inconsistent use on the part of the baby, or the quality of the NOF itself. This study explores the last possibility, by comparing caregiver neurological responses to a variety of NOF and non-NOF sounds. In study 1, 43 primary caregivers of young infants were exposed to three kinds of auditory stimuli using a block design functional magnetic resonance imaging paradigm: Non-infant annoying noises (e.g., clown noses squeaking, audio sounds from the Laugh & Learn™ Dance & Play Puppy), NOF recorded from a variety of infants, and white noise (baseline condition). We found that activity in the left amygdala, right anterior cingulate cortex, and medial prefrontal cortex (areas of the brain associated with anger) was significantly higher in the non-infant condition relative to baseline, while activity in those areas as well as the right and left insula (areas of the brain associated with disgust) was significantly higher in the NOF condition relative to both baseline and non-infant condition. These results suggest NOF are neurologically distinct from other annoying sounds, and that they evoke a pattern of brain behavior associated with anger and disgust. In study 2, we compared a variety of NOF to determine which most effectively evoke the pattern of activation seen in study 1. A new group of 36 primary caregivers was exposed to NOF varying according to loudness, fundamental frequency (pitch), and duration, again using a block design fMRI study. Participants were also asked to push a button for those sounds that they would respond to. We found that NOF of at least 90 db and with a rising-falling-rising pitch in the range of 1000 Hz and lasting at least 5 seconds elicited the strongest neural response. Participants were also significantly more likely to indicate that they would respond to NOF with these qualities. Our results suggest that primary caregivers are differentially sensitive to NOF, and that babies may be able to maximize their chances of achieving parental response by using those NOF with the qualities above. However, further research is needed to determine the nature of parental response these NOF are best at evoking.