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Common sense tells us that a mother’s love is perhaps the secret ingredient in a healthy child, a healthy home and a healthy society. This concept is backed by plenty of good science – but can nurturing deliver a bigger brain for your child?
To support this logic, a new study found that when mothers nurtured their preschoolers, the children’s brains grew at twice the rate of the kids who were neglected. (1)
In this study, 127 children were followed from their preschool years into their adolescent years. The children had received three brain scans to map their brain development and growth. Scientists believe that there is a sensitive period during childhood where the brain is more moldable and more responsive to maternal support. (1,2)
Early maternal nurturing was found to dramatically increase the grow of the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain where the limbic system is located and linked to long term memories, learning, emotional regulation and better adaptive coping skills later in life. (1)
The study asked mothers to help their child complete a task, while trying to prevent the child from opening a beautifully wrapped gift that was placed in plain sight. Mothers were evaluated on how well they were able to maintain their composure while navigating this task with their preschooler.
While this seems like somewhat of an unfair test to me (because mom’s can just have bad days), they found that the brain scans of the kids that had mothers who were more supportive than average had increases in the growth of the hippocampus that were two times greater than the kids whose mothers who were not as supportive.
The children who had more emotional support during preschool had better brain development, emotional regulation and adaptive skills when they were teenagers. In fact, even if the mothers became more nurturing after the preschool years, the kids did not seem to catch up by their adolescence years. (1)
This study will hopefully lend credible support for the very important roles that mothers play in the early development of their child. This study may lead to more support for mothers to have the time to be with and support their preschoolers.
According to Ayurveda, there is an old saying, “The teacher is more important than ten instructors; And the father more than a hundred teachers, but the mother more than a thousand fathers.” Manu Smriti 2-145