The link between maternal support and the brain development of children has been proven in a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In this study, researchers proved the fact that children who receive more support and nurture from their mothers in early childhood will have a larger hippocampus, an important area of the brain.
The role of hippocampus
Hippocampus is part of the brain whose responsibilities are to record and process memory. Memory is the key factor contributing to the future learning and performance of kids at school. It is believed that this area is crucial in managing stress. However, in case the stress level gets too high, the hippocampus is also threatened. How stress hormones affect the hippocampus, which was suggested in a previous study, may be useful in explaining the relation of stress and depression. Depression may happen when the harmful amount of stress hormones cause the hippocampus to shrink. And when the hormone level turns back to normal, this area of the brain will produce new cells.
The support of mom and the child’s hippocampus
The study mentioned at the beginning of this article was carried out with 92 kids from their early to grade-school years. In this study, experts videotaped every couple of parents and children doing the ‘waiting task’ experiment. The children were given brightly wrapped presents and could only open them when their mother finished the paperwork. During the waiting time, the experts observed how much the mothers support their children.
Afterward, researchers still kept following the development of those children. And when the children turned to the age between 7 and 13, they were brought in for the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In the study, there are 51 children who grew up without any symptoms of depression. The result showed that among those 51 kids, who had got more support from their mothers earlier had significantly larger hippocampi on both sides of the brain. The size of hippocampi in the rest of 51 children whose mothers show less support is about 9% smaller.
The result of this study suggests that the parental support in the early childhood plays a very crucial role in the development of a child’s brain. It helps the child to overcome the stress and reduce the negative effects of stress on their life.
Children with early life depression
While the link between maternal support and the brain development in normal children was clarified, the other 41 kids who had depression might not respond to their mothers’ support. In spite of having empathetic mothers, these kids still had the size of their hippocampi 6% smaller than the non-depressed kids with the same support. This result emphasized the importance of early treatment to help the depressed kids manage depression and respond well to their mother support.
Although the study couldn’t explain the results observed in all children, we could still see that mom’s support is tied to the brain development of mentally healthy children. Therefore, the next time you take it on your kids, remember it will affect their brain development.
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