This Is Your Brain On Motherhood

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The July issue of Scientific American has a large feature story on how parenthood alters the brains of both mothers and fathers. The magazine has put together a video presenting their findings on mood swings, nursing, and how after having kids, mothers tend to be more adventurous.

The video narrative describes how when motherhood is combined with nursing, a woman’s nerves are actually soothed contrary to popular opinion. The video notes that “nursing dampens activities in the brain’s stress systems.” The amygdala, which plays a primary role in emotional response, becomes much more active as well as the hypothalamus, which controls urges such as fighting and mating.

After having kids, mothers tend to be willing to take more risks than childless women. A mother’s constant multi-tasking, quick decisions, and memorization are all thanks to the pre-frontal cortex. Studies have found that mother rats experience a rush of dopamine when around their babies that actually lasts longer than food. Similarly, mothers experience “flutters” in their nucleus accumbens when just looking at their baby.