Mothers can Establish Sense of Fear in Child via Smell: Research

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jul 30, 2014

Fear Can Be Transmitted Through SmellAccording to a new study, mothers can teach their newborns about things they should be scared of by letting them smell their fear.

The study was conducted on rats and it showed how a mother’s alarm scent made her newborn offspring aware of fear by developing a peppermint phobia.

The researchers believe that the same smell of fear theory must be true with the humans.

The effect of a mother’s disturbing experience on the child has been baffling the researchers since ages. Some mothers who have become a victim of holocaust have had children who react as if they also witnessed the same trauma.

These fears have been seen in the form of nightmares, avoidance behaviour, and flashbacks and have been developed only be hearing about instances.

The US leader of the study, Jacek Debiec from the University of Michigan said “Our research demonstrates that infants can learn from maternal expression of fear, very early in life.

“Before they can even make their own experiences, they basically acquire their mothers’ experiences. Most importantly, these maternally-transmitted memories are long-lived, whereas other types of infant learning, if not repeated, rapidly perish.”

The lead researcher found evidence showing that human babies inherit fear from their parents. Debiec found this while working with some grown children of Jews who had survived the Nazi death camps.

Dabiec is hopeful that the research would help in blocking the transmission of irrational or harmful fear responses from other to the children.

The research that has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences lays emphasis on the part of the brain called lateral amygdale in which smell-transmitted fear takes birth in early life.

“Despite clinical evidence that specific fear is transmitted across generations, we have little understanding of mechanisms. Here we model social transmission of mother-to-infant fear in rodents. We show that maternal fear responses to a conditioned fear odour are sufficient to induce robust fear learning throughout infancy, with robust retention. Elucidating the mechanisms of this transmission may inform the development of novel therapeutic and preventive approaches”, write the scientists.

Image courtesy: Getty Images

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