Mums quicker, smarter than childless women

AAP 20 March 2008

Scientists have brought new meaning to the term “super mum” with fresh research suggesting pregnancy sparks changes in the brain that make women quicker and smarter for decades after giving birth. US researchers have told an international mental health conference they have proof that women with children are more visually aware and responsive compared with those without offspring. Lab tests on rats have shown that there is a “reservoir of hormones” released in pregnancy and giving birth that create permanent changes in the brain.

“The flow of estrogen promotes neuron growth and enhances the plasticity of the brain,” said Professor Craig Kinsley, a neuroscientist at the University of Richmond. “As a result mothers in our animal models have better vision, co-ordination and memory, stronger survival instincts and go about their tasks more efficiently than non-mothers.” He said these benefits of nature are directed at protecting the offspring until they mature and are old enough to reproduce. Observational studies suggest the same findings in human females and, says Prof Kinsley, the newest research indicates the benefits are lasting.