Infants produce drug-like narcotic effect: Jonesin' for that new baby smell?
Almost everyone loves holding a two-day old baby. What could be more innocent and pure than a little bundle of joy sent straight from heaven? Even the smell of an infant, for mothers at least, is almost… intoxicating. Nothing but pure, unadulterated love, right? That’s how it seems, but a new study suggests these little angels are actually narcotic-secreting, manipulative hell-beasts, emitting an odor that acts on the mother’s dopamine receptors like a little snort of cocaine.
Dr. Johannes Frasnelli, a researcher at the University of Montreal’s Department of Psychology, said in a press release, “What we have shown for the first time is that the odor of a newborn activates the neurological reward circuit in mothers. It is in fact the sating of desire.” Only women were involved in the study, so they aren’t sure if fathers experience the same reaction. It also isn’t clear to what degree other bonding mechanisms contribute to the mothers’ reaction. Even so, we’d like to recommend that mothers only exhale near their children for the first six months just to be safe.
It’s sad that we can no longer trust babies, but the results of this study aren’t too surprising. For many mammals, smell is the primary sense used in memory formation, bonding and generally interacting with the world. Vision may have usurped many of the functions once dominated by scent in humans, but our sense of smell still has a profound psychological impact. The scent of patchouli alone is enough to elicit fond memories for some yet send others into a blind rage. So the next time you need a little fix, tell them your drug of choice is sweat from a newborn.
This creepy chart from Frasnelli’s report represents this strange change in brain activity that baby smell causes, but it’s almost Greek to us.