Mom Knows Best

We rely a lot on moms, there’s no doubt about it. From breakfasts, lunches, and dinners to homework, bake sales, and sports, our moms have our backs through it all. But that’s not all they’re responsible for! Based on some recent research, we now know that moms have a role in shaping their children’s brains – because there wasn’t enough pressure already, right?! Take a look at how moms make an imprint on our grey matter and how they knew best all along!

Turns out, moms are right to push “How was your day?” conversation over the dinner table.

A recent MIT study states that having a conversation with young children can help overcome socioeconomic differences when it comes to children’s language development. A landmark study from 1995 found that children from lower economic families have a “30 million word deficit” compared to children from more well-off families, correlating to differences in vocabulary, language development, and reading comprehension. That’s a tough situation to turn around, but MIT cognitive scientists studied 4-6 year olds using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and found that, despite a parent’s income or education, the number of exchanges in a conversation predicted more activity in Broca’s area, the part of the brain most related to speech and language, and resulted in higher standardized scores on language assessments. It’s not just about having exposure to diversity of words, but about engaging in a conversation.

My mom always told me, it’s not necessarily what you say, but how you say things that’s important. She was right.

It turns out that baby talk used with young children has a greater function than just sounding sweet to their children. From previous research on the rhythm and pitch, we’ve come to understand that not only do babies prefer to hear baby talk but also they learn new words more easily from the exaggerated way of speaking. Researchers at Princeton wondered if the timbre of a voice – including breathiness, roughness, or nasality – had anything to do with that. They found that women in English and nine other languages change the way they speak to their babies, possibly as a way to indicate the distinction and importance of what they are about to say. Mom, own your baby talk with your infants! It’s serious business.

Making good choices is easier when Mom’s around.

As many of us know, learning from mom doesn’t stop when we’re infants. Often times we need more attention later on in preteen and teen years as we explore responsibilities and consequences of our actions. Developmental neuroscientists all agree that adolescents tend towards risky behavior, but there’s a new view on why. Previously, scientists believed this behavior was based on heightened activity in the ventral striatum, the reward system in our brain, was too strong to compete with the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with decision making and control, but researchers at UNC have found evidence that it depends on who’s around. In a driving simulation with fMRI, teens that drove alone through a yellow stop light strictly had more activity in their reward center. When mom was in the passenger seat, teens that stopped at a yellow light had greater activity at their ventral striatum and prefrontal cortex. Those teens that sped through the yellow with mom didn’t experience any extra reward.

It’s easy to put a lot of pressure on moms to provide the best for their children, but it’s good to know that they were already leading us down the right path all along. Thanks to all the moms out there doing their best!

Any lessons you learned from your mom or a woman you care about that you’re thankful for? Leave a comment!

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