Valerie Tucker Miller, a doctoral student in anthropology at Purdue University, is studying the effects of motherhood on attention, memory and other mental activities. “In most studies, attention and memory tests were performed on women in the very early postpartum stages,” Miller said.
She added: ‘When you have just given birth, you experience a cascade of decreased hormone levels and sleep deprivation, which can affect attention and memory processes in the brain.
In a new study to test the prevalence of “mommy brain,” Miller used a modified “attention network test” to compare the response times of 60 mothers (all more than a year after giving birth) and 70 non-mothers. The results, published online in the US journal Current Psychology, showed that women who became mothers performed just as well or better than those who never got pregnant or gave birth.
“In this particular study, we recruited mothers over a year after giving birth because we wanted to see the long-term effects of motherhood,” she said. In general, there was no significant difference in attention between mothers and non-mothers, so we found no evidence to support the so-called ‘mommy brain’. If anything, motherhood may be associated with increased, not decreased, attention.”
Co-author Amanda Vail, an assistant professor of anthropology at Purdue university, said the study’s hybrid approach may be the first to examine how the process of becoming a mother affects the functioning of real-world attention networks in the long run.
The researchers graded the participants’ responses on a seven-point scale, asking questions such as “how sleepy do you feel” and “how attentive do you think you are?” Women’s self-reported attention status was strongly correlated with their attention test scores, regardless of whether they were mothers, Weil said.
“This means that women have an accurate picture of their cognitive status and their concerns about their perceived attention should be taken seriously,” she said We also believe that ‘mummy brain’ may be a cultural phenomenon where mothers feel most distracted and forgetful when they are stressed, overwhelmed and unsupported. Unfortunately, that is exactly how many mothers in the United States feel, especially during the current economic and political instability and the epidemic.”