Pregnancy doesn’t just leave stretch marks. It changes a woman’s brain in ways that are “pronounced and long-lasting” and that appear to help new mothers bond with their babies. Those are the striking conclusions from a study published this month in Nature Neuroscience that the authors say is the first evidence of its kind.
My reporting and writing on science, health, learning, parenting and other subjects has appeared in many publications including Newsweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American Mind, Parents, and Redbook. Here are some selected articles ranging from my latest work to a few old favorites.
My youngest son grew up the other day. He is now officially taller than I am.
I knew this was coming. If you are a mother of boys, it’s a near certainty that you will one day be the shortest in the family. My older two sons are now nearly six and eight inches taller than I am respectively, and Alex—the last of the three—is 13 years old. It’s been all hairy legs and oversized feet for some time now. Nonetheless, I’m surprised to find myself here, looking up at all of my children. And I wonder how this new perspective changes things.
If you say you have never lied, you are almost certainly lying. Only little lies, you say? Well, it’s long been thought that’s where the seeds of dishonesty are usually sown. Even convicted swindler Bernie Madoff thought so. According to his secretary, he said: “Well, you know what happens, it starts out with you taking a little bit . . . and before you know it, it snowballs into something big.”
Picture two female chimpanzees hanging out under a tree. One grooms the other, systematically working long fingers through fur, picking out bugs and bits of leaves. The recipient sprawls sleepily on the ground, looking as relaxed as someone enjoying a spa day. A subsequent surreptitious measurement of her levels of oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding and pleasure, would confirm that she is pretty happy.
And why not? Grooming appears to be a pleasurable way to spend time. Many species of apes and monkeys devote long chunks of the day to it. Among other things, grooming can curry favor and strengthen alliances so it is likely that of these two chimps, the female being primped is of equal or greater rank in the troop than the one doing the work.
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan has put lead back in the news. By now, anyone who’s paying attention must know that lead is a potent neurotoxin that can permanently affect a child’s ability to learn. But I suspect very few understand what it is exactly that lead does to a child’s brain. How else could politicians like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie claim that the situation is “overdramatized?”