Journalist Katherine Ellison draws on cutting-edge neuroscience research to demonstrate that, contrary to long-established wisdom that having children dumbs you down, raising children may make moms smarter. From enhanced senses in pregnancy and early motherhood to the alertness and memory skills necessary to manage like a pro, to a greater aptitude for risk-taking and a talent for empathy and negotiation, these advantages not only help mothers in raising their children, but in their work and social lives as well.
The Mommy Brain details five principle ways in which motherhood can improve women's minds:
- Perception: A mother's sensory-rich life with her newborn actually remaps part of her brainimproving her ability to interpret new information.
- Efficiency: Pregnancy and early motherhood enrich the brain, improving memory and setting a mother up for a lifetime of multitasking.
- Resilience: Oxytocin, a powerful hormone abundant in mothers, so effectively combats stress, clearing the way for improved learning, that scientists are studying its, potential as an anti-depressant and even as a therapy for Alzheimer's.
- Motivation: The fierce biological urge to defend their children, bolstered by mind-altering hormones, helps mothers become more creative and competitive.
- Emotional Intelligence: Mothers get basic training in this important kind of smarts as they tone their brain's "empathy muscles" by instinctively imitating their babies' facial expressions.
These five chapters make up the core of the book. In addition, Ellison reports on the emerging trend of research into the maternal mind, including MRI studies in labs throughout the world. The last chapters reveal how fathers, adoptive parents and altruists share in many "Mommy Brain" benefits, and shows how motherhood in the 21st century has become a particularly brain-intensive job. Ellison goes on to demonstrate how some of today's brainiest professional managers are recruiting and keeping women employees by providing creative and flexible arrangements that help mothers and fathers excel both at home and on the job.