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Seen today in the online Telegraph newspaper, a report from the American Psychological Association that brains of new mothers bulked up as they coped with the steep learning curve of dealing with a newborn. Mothers who gushed the most about their babies showed the greatest growth in key parts of the brain, it was found. Ah, ze little grey cells.
The researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health in Maryland scanned the brains of 19 women. A comparison of images taken two to four weeks and three to four months after the women gave birth showed that grey matter volume increased by a small but significant amount in various parts of the brain.
The authors speculated that hormone levels and the need to cope with the challenges of a baby led to the increase in brain cells. The areas affected are involved with motivation – the hypothalamus -, reward and emotion processing – the amygdala – senses – parietal lobe – and finally – the prefrontal cortex - reasoning and judgment. Ahem, let’s not forget we’re raising the bar here from a very low level !
Mothers who most enthusiastically rated their babies as special, beautiful, ideal, perfect and so on were significantly more likely to develop bigger brains than the less awestruck mothers in key areas linked to maternal motivation, rewards and the regulation of emotions. As one wag commented, if that’s the case why don’t they use them ?
Don’t forget ladies, bigger isn’t always better !