How does maternal odor impact infants’ responses to emotional faces?

First results from our project on the impact of maternal odor on emotion processing in infancy are out!

Testing 7-month-olds in an EEG paradigm, we found that infants at this age show a reduced fear response when they can smell their mother. This suggests that maternal odor might be a strong enough signal to make the baby feel safe and reduce their need to pay increased attention to potential threats in the environment. We also found that breastfeeding might have a similar effect – while babies who were not breastfed any more showed the expected attentional response to fearful faces, this response was absent in breastfed babies.

Jessen, S. (2020). Maternal odor reduces the neural response to fearful faces in human infants. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 45, 100858.