New Study Confirms That 'Baby Brain' Is A Real Phenomenon
Many new mums often joke about 'baby brain' - the idea of becoming clumsy or forgetful after giving birth. But did you know it's actually a real phenomenon?
According to a new study, the condition - sometimes referred to as 'mumnesia' - is real, but thankfully it doesn't last for longer than a year.
After that time, it's reported that new mums actually become more attentive than ever.
Co-author of the study Valerie Miller, a doctoral student at Purdue University in the US, said: "In most studies, attention and memory tests are given to mothers very early postpartum.
"There are few issues with that because when you first have a child, you have a cascade of hormones and sleep deprivation that might be affecting attention and memory processes in the brain."
The research team conducted an Attention Network Test (ANT), comparing the reaction times among 60 mothers who were at least one year postpartum and 70 women who do not have children.
Ms Miller said: "For this particular study, we recruited mums who were past that first year postpartum because we wanted to see the long-term effects of maternity."
The women were asked to answer questions such as "How sleepy do you feel?" and "How do you think your attentiveness is?".
Researchers found a match between how women perceived their attention span in comparison to their test results.
"This means that women have accurate awareness of their cognitive state, and that their concerns regarding their perceived attentional functioning should be taken seriously," said co-author, Assistant Professor Dr Amanda Veile.
"We also believe that 'mummy-brain' may be a culture-bound phenomenon, and that mothers will feel the most distracted and forgetful when they feel stressed, overextended and unsupported.
"Unfortunately, many mums feel this way, especially now in the midst of economic and political instability and pandemic."
The participants in the study then had to complete a digital test, conducted to collect the women's response times, scoring them against alertness, orienting and their 'executive control network'.
The alerting network helps the brain prepare for incoming stimuli, while the orienting network directs the brain towards anything new and the executive control works to resolve conflicting info.
They found no evidence that being a mother had any negative influence on a woman's ability to pay attention.
Ms Miller said: "Overall, mums did not have significantly different attention than non-mothers, so we did not find evidence to support 'mummy brain' as our culture understands it."
"It's possible, if anything, that maternity is related to improved, rather than diminished, attentiveness."
This suggests mummy brain does not last long and disappears after at least one year following having a baby.
Researchers also warned heightened attention isn't always a good thing, as it can amplify stress and anxiety.
Ms Miller added: "It makes perfect sense that mums who have brought children into this world have more stimuli that needs to be processed to keep themselves and other humans alive, and then to continue with all the other tasks that were required before the children.
"We plan to do cross-cultural investigations to further examine how narratives of motherhood and social support are associated with maternal tested attention and well-being around the world."
At least we now know that despite baby brain being real - it shouldn't last for too long! The findings were published in the journal Current Psychology.
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