New mothers have sharper memory

London: According to a latest study researchers have found that new mothers have a better memory – the findings that counter the belief that women experience a decline in memory and cognitive function after they have children.

Suddenly becoming forgetful has long been seen as part and parcel of becoming a mother.

But scientists say so-called ‘baby brain’ may be a myth and, in fact, having a child may actually improve a woman’s memory.

In a series of experiments, new mothers scored better on tests of visuospatial memory – the ability to perceive and remember information about their surroundings – compared with women who didn’t have children.

“You don’t have to feel that because you have kids, your memory isn’t the same,” a newspaper quoted Melissa Santiago from Carlos Albizu University in Miami as saying while presented her findings to a meeting of the American Psychological Association.

Santiago analyzed information from 35 first-time mothers whose children were aged 10 to 24 months, and 35 women who had never been pregnant.

Both groups - primarily comprising Hispanic women - scored similarly on intelligence tests.

To test visuospatial memory, the women were shown a paper containing six symbols for 10 seconds, and then asked to draw what they remembered. This task was repeated several times.

The first time women were shown the paper, both groups remembered about the same amount.

But on the second and third occasions, mothers performed better than those without children, indicating that the mothers garnered more information each time than the other women.

Later, the women were shown a variety of different symbols, and asked to remember which ones were present on the earlier task. Again, the mothers displayed a better memory.

In pregnancy many physiological changes happen to the body, and previous research has suggested the brain even shrinks up to five percent.

But it returns to its normal size six months after childbirth, and during this time of re-growth, the brain may re-map itself in a way that is responsible for the memory changes seen in the study, Santiago said.

She said her findings would need to be verified by testing a larger sample of women of different ethnicities over a longer period of time.