Science

Fearful Mothers Have Fearful Babies, says Medical Study

By | Jul 30, 2014 12:05 AM EDT
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Babies

(Photo : Reuters)

A study published by the University of University of Michigan Medical School and New York University found that mother rats can transmit fear to their offspring through odors.

The experiment saw pregnant female rats subjected to mild electric shocks while smelling peppermint, prompting them to fear the peppermint scent.

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After giving birth, these rats and a control group of mothers, which weren't shocked, were made to smell peppermint without being shocked.

Pups of both groups of mothers were also made to smell the peppermint, with and without their mothers around.

What researchers found was that the pups acquired their mothers' experiences.

Infants whose mothers were fearful of the peppermint scent were frightened when their mothers were around while the peppermint scent was introduced.

Even when a pup's mother wasn't around, but her scent while she was fearful was introduced to the pup, the pup also became fearful.

The find out why, the research team focused on the lateral amygdala, a part of the brain that detects threats and signals the body to react.

The research team led by neuroscientist and psychiatrist Dr. Jacek Debiec of U-M Medical School, found that baby rats didn't become fearful when they were given a substance that blocked activity in the lateral amygdala.

So what do these findings mean for human beings?

For rats, and maybe even humans, this may mean there could be a way to prevent children from learning fearful responses from their mother.

Dr. Debiec said that although further investigations will have to be conducted to answer if odor-transmission also rings true for human beings as it does for rats, science has already proven that a mother's scent does play a vital role in calming human babies.

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