Americans may spend billions on products to eliminate body odor, but there are certain smells – such as that of a newborn baby – that make people smile, according to a study cited in Real Simple magazine.
The research found that the scent of a baby gave women a mood boost similar to that of eating chocolate.
In the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, researchers gathered 30 women; half had recently given birth and half were not mothers. Each was given a cotton undershirt that a newborn baby had worn for two nights and that had been frozen to preserve the baby’s scent. When the women were given the shirts to smell, the reward center in their brains lit up.
Researchers weren’t sure what the scent was. “We think it consists of roughly 250 chemicals,” said Johan Lundstrom, an associate professor at the Monell Chemical Senses center in Philadelphia. “We think it gives moms the urge to take care of their infants.”
Researchers also suggested that the babies’ body odor might also convey cues that can motivate a woman to care for a child even if the baby isn’t her own. No word on how the smell affects men.