A mother's care may affect the physical development of a child's brain, a study suggests. Researchers found that preschool kids with more nurturing mothers had larger hippocampi than their peers by the time they were school age, reports HealthDay News, via the Philadelphia Inquirer. The hippocampus is a part of the brain that deals with learning and memory, among other functions. The study "provides very powerful evidence of the importance of early nurturing for healthy brain development and has tremendous public health implications," says its author.
In the experiment, researchers offered preschool children gifts but said they couldn't open them until their mothers, who also were in the room, had filled out some forms. The kids' predicament was meant to resemble a stressful experience at home, as when a child wants something but a parent is busy. Researchers evaluated mothers' responses as nurturing if they worked to help the kids deal with their impatience rather than reprimanding them. Years later, researchers scanned the children's brains and found that the children of nurturing moms had hippocampi 10% bigger than those of kids whose moms weren't nurturing.