By: Chris O'Shea
If you've ever been around a mother and her newborn baby, you've probably heard her say something along the lines of wanting to eat the infant, because it's so cute. When this happens, typically you shrug this off because babies aren't really cute until they're at least six months old, but nevertheless, you smile and agree, despite it being weird to say you want to eat a human. Well, according to a new study, it's not odd at all. Mothers say they want to eat their babies up because they actually think it smells delicious. Mmm… Baby sandwich.
Johannes Frasnelli, a researcher and lecturer in the department of psychology at the University of Montreal, conducted some experiments that show a baby's scent ignites the same portion of the brain that fires up when people smell something good, have sex, or experience other pleasures. "What we've shown for the first time is the odour of newborns — which is part of these signals — activates the neurological reward circuit in mothers," Frasnelli explained to the Canadian news site Global News. "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."
To come to this conclusion, Frasnelli and a team of colleagues found 30 women; 15 of whom had just given birth within the last month and 15 of whom had never had a baby. The team then attached scanning equipment to all of the participants' brains. Each woman was then presented either the scent of a newborn (a t-shirt worn by an infant for two days) or simply some fresh air. All of the women loved the newborn scent, of course. But the pleasure center in the moms brains displayed noticeably more action when they smelled the baby scent, compared to those who had never had a baby.
Franselli theorizes that mothers' brains react this way to keep our species going. "A mother with her first child goes from living life in a couple to all of a sudden having to care for a little human being who cries whenever it wants and whom you have to clean up after," Franselli told Today.com. "It’s a big, big disturbance. It could be seen as something unpleasant, and yet most parents get pleasure from it."
Of course moms wouldn't keep us all going if they actually did eat the baby when they mention it. And this experiment didn't involve men, so who knows if moms are the only ones who feel this way. Either way, we're hungry now. Someone hand us a baby toe or two.
[Pic via Flickr - Clay Junell]