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.
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?”
From the start, it was a provocative theory that ran counter to prevailing beliefs about both the immune system and autism, and in the early days Van de Water was one of its few proponents. “We’ve been swimming upstream — still are,” she says. Her peers criticized Van de Water’s work on the grounds that her results didn’t support her claims. And they were deeply upset when, in 2013, Van de Water formed a licensing partnership with a San Diego-based company called Pediatric Bioscience. That deal was aimed at developing a maternal antibody screen that might allow for early diagnosis of autism or, if performed prenatally, indicate the risk of having a child with autism. “This is very, very premature,” Yale University autism researcher George Anderson told Science at the time.
I resolve to change it up this resolution season.
Usually, at this time of year, I’m as game as anyone for creating a to-do list of self-improvement. I have always thought of it as an annual refocusing of attention and regularly vowed to exercise more, eat better, work smarter and so on. When the repetitive nature of these promises and the implied lack of progress threatened to depress me, I’d tell myself, “at least I’m consistent!” All those goals are still valid. I would still like to exercise more, eat better and work smarter.
My three sons are nearly all teenagers, but I remember the minutes immediately after each child’s birth as sharply as if the boys had entered the world this morning. Receiving my new babies into my arms, I hugged each one to my chest, caressed his back, and kissed the top of his tiny head. And then we stayed there like that for quite awhile, mother and child.
The sense of touch had a lot to do with why those moments were so powerful. Touch has long been understood to be important in nurturing relationships—so much so that babies raised in orphanages without it often died. Those first moments with my children, followed by years of cuddles and hugs, no doubt contributed mightily to the deep bonds between us.