Have you ever wondered why zombies devour the flesh of their victims? What is it about a virus that could turn someone into a cannibal almost instantly? Well, a recent scientific study may shed some light on how certain smells can actually rewire our brains. By testing the reactions of women to the odors of newborn infants, researchers have discovered an elicit response in the reward-related cerebral areas of the brain, regardless of their maternal status.
Surely, you’ve heard a woman exclaim that a baby is “so cute, I could just eat them up!” But what exactly drives this odd maternal instinct? Could the same impulse that regulates food cravings and addiction actually drive a mother to cannibalism?
What we have shown for the first time is that the odour of newborns, which is part of these signals, activates the neurological reward circuit in mothers. 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.
For the experiment, two groups women were presented with the odors of newborn babies collected from their pyjamas two days after birth. Brain imaging immediately showed a dramatic rise in dopamine levels, which is often associated with sexual pleasure and other forms of gratification.
Obviously there is no epidemic of mothers actually eating their babies! But what would it take for this innocent and natural reaction to mutate and go horribly wrong? It’s often suggested that the undead will hunt using their sense of smell. Could this research lend new credence to that popular theory?