New Mom, Ph.D

Drapkin Jennifer

TIRED, OVERWHELMED WOMEN often feel as if having a baby causes their minds to turn to mush. Not so. In her new book, The Mommy Brain, Katherine Ellison cites research showing motherhood makes women smarter and more mentally agile.

There is no more challenging time in a woman’s life than when she has a baby, says Ellison, and human evolution has ensured that she is well equipped to handle it. Alert, efficient and empathetic, a mother’s mind is designed to make the species survive.

Although some of the benefits, such as heightened sensory awareness, seem to last only as long as it takes the baby to grow up, others may be lifelong. According to Ellison, the mental dexterity that mothers gain from raising their kids may translate permanently into greater empathy and assertiveness.

The New, Improved Mommy Brain:

A combination of motivation, practice and hormones gives

mothers intellectual strengths they may have never had before.



Face Reading Mothers of toddlers Mothers develop

are better at reading attention to tiny

facial expressions changes in expression

than women who and body language in

don’t have children. their kids, actually

expanding the brain’s

circuits related to


Multitasking Mother rats can During pregnancy and

simultaneously solve early motherhood, the

mazes and find food brain is bathed in

much more quickly estrogen, which

than childless rats. increases connections

in the cerebral cortex

that deal with attention

and complex tasks.

Serenity Three to six months Mothers experience

after delivery, breast- greater sensitivity to

feeding mothers are the hormone oxytocin,

less tense, less edgy what anthropologist

and less bored. Sarah Hrdy calls “the


equivalent of

candlelight, soft music

and a glass of wine.”

Fearlessness Rat moms will venture Elevated levels of

into broad daylight; prolactin, the

human moms will “parenting” hormone,

swim across the make mothers willing to

Rio Grande. risk their lives for

their babies.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

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