Just in time for Mother's Day, a biology professor at Longwood University has some good news for moms: having kids might make women smarter. Moms can handle stress, complete memory tasks and problem solve better than their peers, he and researchers have found in studies of rats.
"A bunch of studies have shown that moms are actually better at all types of learning," Adam Franssen told Smithsonian Magazine in a Q and A published this week. "If you were to put mother rats in a maze and virgin rats in a maze and train them, the mother rats will complete the maze faster."
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Franssen believes the changes start taking place in pregnancy. Neurons in the brain get larger and produce more protein or increase their capacity for communicating from one to another, he said. The rewiring of the brain, he said, increases one's empathy to better protect children, among other benefits. Another study showed that moms can even recover from traumatic brain injury more quickly.
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All in all, the benefits of being a mom are so great that Franssen is interested in figuring out how dads and women who don't have children can get in on the deal.
"Being a dad, I want to know what dads can do to be smarter," he said. "There is evidence that hormone therapy works, that estrogen can help the brain a little bit. Or, what is the role maybe of other environmental enrichment? Is there a way to boost your brain without becoming a mother?"
The answer may not be here by Father's Day, but stay tuned.