Our babies learn from everything they can see, touch, taste, and smell. Therefore, giving them good things to learn is the best way to introduce them to their new world. However, sometimes things just go naturally. There are things we cannot control, yet our babies see and they learn from these things. Our fears, from example, teach our babies about things they should also fear, but how do they know about these things?
Some researchers from University of Michigan tried to reveal how babies learn fears. These researchers are curious, as well as many other people, about how children experience fears which, in some cases, lead to serious trauma to events that never happen in their life. These children fear for things that only happened in their parents’ life. For years or even decades, we were waiting for answer to this question.
After some attempts, our researched concluded. This phenomenon has roots in stories parents tell about dark moments of their life. Even though our babies may not have understand our words, we sometimes forget they can acquire our experiences. The most important thing is our babies store these memories forever, as long as they live, unlike some other memories that can vanish.
The study used non-pregnant rats and exposed them with electric shock after these rats smelled peppermint. When they gave birth to the newborn, the researchers repeated the same treatment to the mother, but this time, they let the newborn rats to see. As they expected, the mother showed physical symptoms of extreme fear.
When the newborns reached maturity, the researchers repeated the same treatment, but this time the subject were the used-to-be newborns. The result was quite surprising because even though they never get the shock, they showed the same symptoms as their mothers did, as the increase in their stress hormones indicate.
Once again, they repeated the experiment. However, this time instead of doing the same thing, they leave the mothers alone during the treatment. Then, they channel the smell using a pipe to the newborns. When the researchers exposed peppermint to the rats after they grew mature, their stress hormones rapidly increased, suggesting smells can transmit that information of fear.
Our researchers believe the same thing happen with our babies, even though they used different test subjects. They believe our amygdala accounts for teaching our baby and transmitting information to her to adopt her mother’s fears. Years later, another study taking place at the same college also revealed that mother could use her scent to soothe her crying baby. So, if that works, how cannot a baby absorb and learn fear from her mother’s scent, as well?