Brains of New Moms Actually Grow

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 (UPI) — Many new mothers say their brains turn to mush, but U.S. researchers say the brains of new moms actually grow.

Neuroscientist Pilyoung Kim, now with the National Institute of Mental Health, and colleagues found the brains of new mothers grew in volume in areas linked to motivation and behavior.

In addition, mothers who gushed the most about their babies showed the greatest growth in these key parts of the mid-brain, the researchers say.

The brains of the women were measured high-resolution magnetic-resonance imaging on the brains of 19 women who gave birth at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.

A comparison of images taken two to four weeks and three to four months after the women gave birth showed that gray matter volume increased by a small but significant amount in various parts of the brain.

The mothers who rated their babies as special, beautiful, ideal, perfect and so on were significantly more likely to develop bigger mid-brains than the less awestruck mothers, Kim says.

The intense sensory-tactile stimulation of a baby may trigger the adult brain to grow in some areas, may allow mothers, to “orchestrate a new and increased repertoire of complex interactive behaviors with infants,” Kim says.

Brain volume doesn’t change over a few months without significant learning, brain injury, illness, or major environmental change.

The study is published in Behavioral Neuroscience.

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