Could this explain more about “mother’s instinct”?

October 30, 2012

Dear Max

Moms and experts know very well about what’s called “mother’s instinct”. It’s a well documented phenomenon where moms can either sense if something amiss with their children, or *know* what’s up or sense something when no one else can.

When I worked at Living and Loving magazine, we ran a fantastic story about mother’s instinct, and featured real stories of kids’ lives who had been saved thanks to their moms’ “gut feelings”.

And recently I came across a story that showed that a mother may always have her children on her mind, literally. This is because cells from fetuses can migrate into the brains of their mothers.

According to BoingBoing, during pregnancy, cells sneak across the placenta in both directions. The fetus’s cells enter his mother, and the mother’s cells enter the fetus. After birth, the mother’s fetal cell count plummets, but some stick around for the long haul.

The investigators analysed the brains of 59 women who had died between the ages of 32 and 101. They looked for signs of male DNA ―which, they reasoned, would have come from the cells of sons. (They searched for male DNA because female DNA would have been harder to distinguish from a mother’s genes.)

According to research, these cells can be really good, protecting moms against some forms of cancer. While many of the cells that enter the mother are immune system cells, some are stem cells. Stem cells have magical properties: they can morph into other types of cells (a process called differentiation), like liver, heart, or brain cells, and become part of those organs. Fetal stem cells migrate to injury sites—for instance, they’ve been found in diseased thyroid and liver tissue and have turned themselves into thyroid and liver cells respectively. They accelerate healing, reducing scars after pregnancy and restoring the normal structure of the skin.

Then there’s baby on the brain. Researchers working with mice have found evidence that cells from the fetus can cross a mother’s brain-blood barrier and generate new neurons. If this happens in humans—and there’s reason to believe it does—then it means, in a very real sense, that our babies integrate themselves into the circuitry of our minds. Could this help explain the remarkable finding that new mothers grow new gray matter in their prefrontal cortex (goals and social control), hypothalamus (hormonal regulation), and other areas of the brain?

So Max, while you carry me in your makeup, I carry you in mine. And always in my heart.


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