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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

& Science - Maternity

I usually try to keep non-programming stuff (especially non-computer stuff) off my blog, but there are just some news items so interesting that I have to post them. The summary I posted on Star Alliance:
A fascinating article in the January issue of Scientific American summarizes recent evidence in maternity. To summarize some of the specific and general findings:

- Hormones during and following pregnancy cause drastic changes in the structure of female brains, effects which are long-lasting or permanent
- Mother rats are significantly better at processing sensory input, navigating mazes, and hunting prey than nonmaternal rats, indicating increased intelligence
- Mother rats show increased complexity in the hippocampus and proliferation of glial cells, as well as finding previously encountered rewards than nonmaternal rats, indicating improved memory
- Experiments with covered/uncovered ground indicate that mother rats experience less fear and tolerate stress better than nonmaternal rats
- Maternal rats demonstrate significantly slower intellectual decline in old age than nonmaternal rats
- Experiments involving multiple independent tasks or streams of input indicate that maternal rats are significantly better at multitasking than nonmaternal rats
- These benefits seem to increase with the number of children

Note that there has been little research of this kind done on human females to date. Note also that the title [Career Women Smarter than Housewives? Better think twice] was only meant to be provocative; it is not to imply that maternity and a place in the workforce are mutually exclusive (in fact, if these maternal traits also apply to human females, it's likely that they could be applied to the workplace).

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