Admit it: When presented with a baby, you've experienced a fleeting desire to eat it. Now science has an explanation.
If you're like most normal people, you've briefly considered eating a baby or two.
Not literally, of course. That would make us no better than hamsters or wolf spiders. But pretend baby-eating – that is, explaining to an infant that she is so cute that you just want to gobble her up, or, in extreme cases, gently grabbing a pudgy appendage and making Cookie-Monster eating sounds – is not unheard of among H. sapiens.
Why is that, anyway? Why do babies always seem so metaphorically delicious, even when you're not particularly hungry? Using brain scanners and pajamas, an international team of scientists is closing in on a answer.
Apparently it has something to do with the way babies smell. A paper published in the current issue of Frontiers in Psychology describes how researchers in Dresden, Germany, imaged the brains of two groups of 15 women while the women sampled the odors of other parents' newborns. One group was composed of women who had given birth within the past six weeks. The other group was made up of women who had never given birth. The scientists collected the smells from the pajamas of two-day old infants.
The smells were shown to elicit activation in the women's' brains' reward circuits.