Maternal odor is known to play an important role in mother-infant-interaction in many altricial species such as rodents. However, we only know very little about its role in early human development. The present study therefore investigated the impact of maternal odor on infant brain responses to emotional expression. We recorded the electroencephalographic (EEG) signal of seven-month-old infants watching happy and fearful faces. Infants in two control groups exposed to no specific odor (control 1) or the odor of a different infant's mother (control 2) showed the expected EEG fear response. Crucially, this response was markedly absent in the experimental group exposed to their mother's odor. Thus, infants respond differently to fear signals in the presence of maternal odor. Our data therefore suggest that maternal odor can be a strong modulator of social perception in human infants.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)