“The researchers concluded: ‘These results show that the odor of newborns undoubtedly plays a role in the development of motivational and emotional responses between mother and child by eliciting maternal care functions such as breastfeeding and protection.”
Researcher Johannes Frasnelli said: ‘What we know now and what is new is there is a neural response linked to the status of biological mother.”
There’s also an audio file on NPR site of a brief interview with Frasnelli. See:
Please note that in the late 1970‘s, an immediate-moment manner of analysis of animal behavior, in other words, learning not to read human thoughts and rationales into what dogs do, revealed to me what the latest research has only now discovered: that the hunger circuitry is the basis of emotional grounding, the basis of seeing and feeling one’s self in another being.
“The mother-child bond that is part of the feeling of maternal love is a product of evolution through natural selection in an environment where such a bond is essential for the newborn’s survival.”
So why would something as primal and primitive as hunger be the basis of an evolutionarily advanced altruistic impulse? Because hunger, in conjunction with balance, is how an individual arrives at a sense of their self, a construct that simultaneously proffers a “hook” whereby another being can be assimilated into that same sense of self and personal identity. When an organism hungers for something, it is importing the essence of that thing into its self. (This is the fundamental purpose of the sense of smell.) This construct of a sense of self by way of hunger is the organizing principle of animal consciousness, one which ultimately facilitates the mother-child bond, (but it’s not specific to mothers either, and I would furthermore point out that it is not restricted to smell, the hunger circuitry and ingestive impulse is also kindled within all emotionally healthy adults visually, so that they feel this way in the presence of a baby with bulbous (preyful, aka chubby) cheeks, belly, thighs and plump lil’ tush.
In evolution, one thing leads to another. One evolutionary advancement telescopes out of another. All relationships, including mother and child, are predicated on the Predator (subject that projects emotion) and Prey (object that absorbs emotion) Dynamic. INARGUABLY the oldest relationship between living beings is the predator/prey relationship, from which all other relationships have emerged, male/female, mother/offspring, peer-to-peer. (I also categorize the parasite/host relationship as falling under predator/prey dynamic, or perhaps I should say the first elaboration of it into a complex social relationship.) The predator and prey relationship predates mother/offspring by many millions upon millions of years and complex relationships evolved from simpler relationships. The basis of the nurturing impulse and caregiving response was well established through the phenomenon of emotional projection (in which the predator lusts for its prey and knows how to hunt, as well as which the prey fears the predator and know how to evade) and the construct of a self eons before there were mothers giving birth to their children.
In the natural scheme of things, the prey controls the predator, if that is, the preyful object is equipped, or can learn to exploit this emotional leverage. When the mother assimilates the baby into a sense of her self, then the baby controls the mother’s emotional responses because keeping baby happy and calm is how mother controls her own nervous thresholds and remains grounded. The nurturing/care giving/protective impulse is an auto-tuning/feedback loop. But this not because such a “bond is essential for the newborn’s survival” per se——but rather, because this is how emotion turns change into information, emotional disequilibrium that can be grounded through the ingestive circuitry is subconsciously construed as part of one’s self. This is a fundamental feature of animal consciousness and which is indeed information that ensures the newborn’s survival, but not because one mother was better than another mother at responding to their babys’ vulnerability and helplessness, but because projecting one’s self into vulnerable, helpless, i.e. preyful aspects, is a fundamental feature of the animal mind and which evolved long before there were mothers and their babies.