Why do Mother's Love the Scent of Newborns?

First Posted: Sep 24, 2013 03:43 PM EDT

Notice how some newborns just smell like happiness?  (Women, we're talking to you, here.) Well, science shows that there may be biological mechanism behind that sweet smells that attracts mothers to their babies.

A recent study shows the smell of a newborn baby triggers a rush of dopamine for new mothers that are actually similar to reward responses that come when craving certain foods.

Our sense of smell works as a chemical communicator that signals between an intense aroma between mother and child that helps keep the two connected.

"What we have shown for the first time is that the odor of newborns, which is part of these signals, activates the neurological reward circuit in mothers," Frasnelli said in a statement, via Live Science. "These circuits may especially be activated when you eat while being very hungry, but also in a craving addict receiving his drug. It is in fact the sating of desire."

Researchers recruited 15 women without any children and 15 first-time mothers who had given birth three to six weeks before the experiment.

While using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers measured the participant's brain activity as they sniffed through an olfactometer--a device that's held up to the nose to detect smells. The smells were collected from cotton undershirts worn by 18 newborns.

The women were then asked to rate how pleasant the smells they were exposed to were.

Results showed overall that both groups rated the baby's odors as weak, unfamiliar and mildly pleasant. However, mothers generally showed a greater activation in the reward center of their brains when experiencing the sent, including heightened activity in the dopamine pathway of the caudate nucleus.

More information regarding the study can be found via the journal Frontiers in Psychology

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