Happy Mothers Help Stimulate Their Baby’s Mental Development

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  • The brains of mothers and babies are better connected when the mother is happy
  • This connection may help the baby learn and aid in the development of a child’s brain
  • Babies of depressed mothers show less evidence of learning due to weakened neural connection between the mother and infant

Findings of a new study suggest one benefit of being a happy mom. Researchers from Cambridge University in the UK found that the brains of mothers and babies are more attuned when the mother is happy.

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In the study, which was published in the journal NeuroImage, researchers discovered that the mothers’ and babies’ brains can work together as a “mega network” when their brain waves synchronize during an interaction.

This special connection may help the baby learn and aid in the development of its brain. The level of connectivity of the brain waves, however, varies depending on the emotional state of the mother.

Researchers found that in mothers who express more positive emotions, their brain becomes more strongly connected with their baby’s brain.

For the study, researchers used dual electroencephalograhy (EEG) to look at the brain signals of seven pairs of mothers and babies while they were interacting with each other.

They found that positive interaction marked by lots of eye contact enhanced the ability of the mother’s and baby’s brains to operate as a single system, which promotes efficient sharing and flow of information between the parent and child.

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The findings suggest that mothers who are happy are likely help stimulate the mental development of their child. Babies of depressed mothers show less evidence of learning due to weakened neural connection between the mother and infant.

“Our emotions literally change the way that our brains share information with others – positive emotions help us to communicate in a much more efficient way,” said Vicky Leong, of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology.

Leong added that depression can have a powerful negative effect on the ability of a parent to establish a connection with their baby.