Having a baby may make a woman more intelligent. Research shows that a woman’s grey matter – brain cells that crunch information – grows in the weeks and months after she has given birth.
And it’s the most doting mothers who experience the biggest burst of brain cells. Such changes usually only occur after intense periods of learning or a brain injury or illness.
It is thought that the hormonal changes associated with having a baby ‘supercharge’ the brain, helping prepare women for the challenges ahead.
And the memory lapses that plague new mothers may be explained by a simpler cause – sleep deprivation, reports the Daily Mail.
The finding contradicts the popular notion that motherhood addles a woman’s brain, reports the journal Behavioral Neuroscience.
Neuroscientists from Yale University in the US scanned the brains of a group of new mothers in the weeks after they had given birth.
The results showed that the amount of grey matter had increased by a small but significant amount by the time the women were three to four months into motherhood.
The areas that grew involve motivation, reasoning, judgement, the processing of emotions and feelings of satisfaction, and are keys to the mother-child relationship.
Expansion in the brain’s ‘motivation area’, said the researchers, could lead to more nurturing, which would help babies survive and thrive physically, emotionally and cognitively.
Mothers who gushed most about their newborns tended to experience the biggest amounts of growth.