It seems like we’ve always been right, newborn fragrance really is the best.
Sniffing a newborn elicits a similar response in mothers to drug use — and it may even make us happier, according to a new study.
Scientists at the University of Montreal discovered that the scent of a newborn baby lights up the reward centers in our brains in a way that other scents can’t.
For mothers in particular, smell is like a dopamine rush in the brain.
The reaction is so strong that it exists even if the baby isn’t for you because mothers and babies have such a bond.
“What we have shown for the first time is that newborn smell – which is part of these signals – activates neurological reward circuits in mothers,” said lead researcher Dr. John Frasnelli.
“These circuits can be activated particularly when you eat very hungry, but also when an addicted addict gets their drugs. It is indeed the satiety of desire.”
Dr. Frasnelli is a professor of psychology at the university and collaborated with colleagues in Sweden and Germany on the study, which looked at how smell affects our brains.
To test the smell of newborns, pajamas that the babies had lived in for about a day or two were frozen to capture the smell. Then 30 women – half parents, the rest not – were put to the test.
Under an fMRI scanner, the women were shown images of air, the smell of newborns and a third smell.
They were asked to describe the smells while the researchers studied their brains’ response.
The majority of women described the baby smell as “somewhat pleasant”. However, the brain scans showed that the limbic system of the participants’ brains lit up.
For new mothers, the reward center responded strongly, there was a clear statistical difference from the women who had no children.
According to Frasnelli, this response shows the effect of having a baby on our brain’s reward centers and explains why parenting makes young mothers so happy.
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