Brain growth through maternal love



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If little children get a lot of attention and love, the brain grows faster

If toddlers experience a lot of maternal support and love, this makes the brain grow faster and better, American researchers from Washington University in St. Louis report in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences". Emotional care in early childhood strengthens cognitive development and later social behavior.

Pronounced growth in the brain The professor of psychiatry Joan Luby, together with her colleagues, examined the effects of motherly attention on the development of the brain in young children. They found that maternal support in toddler age allows the brain region of the hippocampus to grow, which was even visible in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) imaging.

As part of their study, the researchers at Washington University in St. Louis subjected 92 children between the ages of three and six to numerous psychological tests and then, after an average of three years, evaluated the development of the brain using imaging techniques. In the tests, the toddlers were also exposed to mild stress situations in order to observe their behavior, but also that of the mother, more closely. For example, the researchers presented the little ones with a colorfully wrapped present that was out of their reach. The children were only allowed to open it after eight minutes. The children's reaction was recorded using a point system. In addition, the support and care from the mothers during the waiting period was assessed. In this way, the researchers were also able to take maternal care into account in the follow-up examinations.

On average, three years after the first examinations, all children underwent magnetic resonance imaging of the brain. In the subsequent evaluation, the researchers led by Professor Joan Luby found a striking correlation between the growth of the brain region of the hippocampus and the maternal care recorded in the first test. The development of this brain region (as already known) also depended on the gender of the children and other variables (e.g. psychologically stressful events), but factors such as the age or the social position of the parents had no significant influence, according to the researchers. In addition, according to Prof. Joan Luby and colleagues, the statistical connection between the growth of the brain region of the hippocampus and maternal care was relatively strong, even when other factors were taken into account.

Maternal care increases the growth of the hippocampus The growth of the hippocampus, which increases with maternal care, can be of decisive importance for the further course of life, since the special region of the brain has a significant influence on memory, emotions and their processing and stress management. Although the first test was only a snapshot of maternal care, the researchers believe that this can be used as an indication of the general maternal care for infants. Professor Joan Luby and colleagues assume that the care and support of mothers actually stimulate the growth of important brain regions in young children.

This context has long been known in developmental psychology. "The more pronounced the emotional benefits are from an early age, the less psychological problems arise later in life," explains Gritli Bertram, social worker from Hanover. Without enough motherly love, emotional maturity often falls by the wayside. The consequences are behavioral problems and mental disorders, according to the expert. (fp)

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Photo credit: Lucie Kärcher / pixelio.de

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