If you’ve ever thought that your mother was much sweeter or more empathetic towards your children than she ever was towards you, it might not be just in your head
A new brain study suggests that grandmothers may be more emotionally connected to their grandchildren than their own biological children. There have been several studies and theories since the 1960s that have suggested that children’s well-being and academic performance may increase when they have grandparents actively involved in their lives, and Professor James Rilling of Emory University in Atlanta, GA, wanted to see , whether there was any additional neuroscience to support the claims of the grandmother hypothesis.
Rilling, a professor of anthropology, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, recruited 50 women with at least one grandchild between the ages of three and 12 and studied their brain activity with an MRI scan as they were shown photographs of their grandchildren, their children, and strangers. The results? Well, maybe you were not so crazy if you think your mother is more excited to see your children than you.
“When grandmothers saw photographs of their grandchildren, they particularly activated areas of the brain that had previously been associated with emotional empathy, suggesting that grandmothers may be predisposed to share their grandchildren’s emotional states,” Rilling said. USA today. The results of the study insinuate that grandmothers tend to be more empathetic with grandchildren.
“What really stands out is the activation in areas of the brain that are associated with emotional empathy,” Rilling said. The Guardian. “It suggests that grandmothers are geared to feel how their grandchildren feel when they interact with them. If their grandson smiles, they feel the child’s joy. And if their grandson cries, they feel the child’s pain and distress.”
When it comes to adult children, grandmothers’ brains light up in another area, suggesting more mental understanding of their adult child
This does not mean that our mothers forget that we exist as soon as grandchildren come into the picture, of course – more than anything else, our mothers try to understand us and cognitively reformulate us as, as you know, independent adults, which requires a different brain functions.
“Emotional empathy is when you are able to feel what another is feeling, but cognitive empathy is when you understand on a cognitive level what another is feeling and why,” Rilling said. This makes sense. Your mother may not understand why your toddler felt compelled to color the walls in permanent ink, but she may understand why you would be frustrated with your child for their recent unsolicited artwork.
“It’s our first glimpse of grandmother’s brain function. It suggests that grandmothers are particularly dependent on neural systems that are involved with emotional empathy when engaging with their grandchildren,” Rilling said. Okay mom, we’re letting your perceived favoritism slip … for now.
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