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Giving birth may ruin one's figure and take up all free time, but having children may also boost memory power, claims a new study. Craig H Kinsley of the University of Richmond, Virginia, USA, and his team, who conducted a study on rodents, report that female rats who had given birth performed better on two standard mazes -- that tested learning and memory -- than female rats who had not given birth. For example, rats who had given birth were more adept at finding food rewards hidden in the maze. "When a female mammal makes the transition from virginity to motherhood, she is forced to re-focus her activities dramatically. She must adapt to a multitude of new demands by her offspring. She needs to find and remember the location of food stores, water sources and nest sites, and be able to exploit them to her offspring's advantage," the investigators write. Exactly how delivery affects memory is unclear, but some of the hormones produced during pregnancy or the experience of giving birth may cause physical changes in the brain that make it easier for the female rats to remember important things, says Kinsley. And such findings 'may also' apply to humans ( Nature , Vol 402, No 6758).
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