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Monday, 22 November 2021

'The Health Benefits of Grandmas'

"It's official : Science says grannies are good for you:

Scientists say they have proven what many people fortunate enough to grow up with theirs have known all along: Grandmothers have strong nurturing instincts and are hard-wired to care deeply about their grandchildren.

A new study recently published in the Royal Society B is the first to provide a neural snapshot of the cherished intergenerational bond. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers at Emory University in the southern US state of Georgia scanned the brains of 50 grandmothers who were shown pictures of their grandchildren, who were between three and 12 years old.

As a control, they were also shown pictures of an unknown child, an adult parent of the same sex as their grandchild, and an unknown adult. "They recruited areas of the brain that are involved with emotional empathy, and also areas of the brain that are involved in movement and motor simulation and preparation," James Rilling, an anthropologist and neuroscientist who led the study told AFP.

"When they're viewing these pictures of their grandchild, they're really feeling what the grandchild is feeling. So when the child is expressing joy, they're feeling that joy. When the children are expressing distress, they're feeling that distress."

The same motor related regions of the brain also light up in the brains of mothers, and are thought to be related to the instinct to pick up a child or approach and interact with them.

By contrast, when the grandmothers viewed images of their adult children, there was a stronger activation of brain regions linked to cognitive empathy -- trying to understand what a person is thinking or feeling and why, without as much emotional engagement.

This, said Rilling, might be linked to children's cute appearance -- scientifically known as "baby schema," which the young of many species share in order to evoke a caregiving response.

First of its kind study
Unlike other primates, humans are "cooperative breeders," which means mothers get help in rearing offspring.

Rilling, who had previously conducted similar research on fathers, had wanted to turn his attention toward grandmothers in order to explore a theory in anthropology known as the "grandmother hypothesis." This holds that the evolutionary reason that human females tend to live long lives -- well beyond their own reproductive years -- is to provide benefits to their grown offspring and grandchildren.

Evidence supporting the hypothesis has been found in societies including Hadza hunter-gatherers of northern Tanzania, where grandmothers provide nourishing tubers to their grandchildren.

The effect also been seen in other species such as elephants, and has been observed in orcas, which like humans -- but unlike the vast majority of mammals -- also experience menopause.

"This is really the first look at the grand maternal brain," said Rilling, explaining that brain scan studies on the elderly normally focus on studying conditions like Alzheimer's disease. The grandmothers, who were drawn from the Atlanta, Georgia area and came from a cross-section of economic and racial backgrounds, were also asked to fill out questionnaires. Grandmothers who reported a greater desire to be involved with caring had greater activity in brain regions of interest.

Finally, when comparing the new study with the results from his earlier work on fathers, Rilling found that overall, grandmothers more strongly activated regions involved with emotional empathy and motivation. But he stressed that this finding was only an average and doesn't necessarily apply to any given individual.

Rilling also interviewed each of his subjects to get a sense about the challenges and rewards of being a grandparent. "Consistently, the challenge that came up the most was the differences of opinion they would have with the parents in terms of how the grandchildren should be raised -- their values, and the constant struggle to step back from that," he said.

On the other hand, "We joked about it, but a lot of them talked about how you can give the grandchildren back, it's not a full time job," he said. Many grandmothers felt they could be more present now that they were free of the time and financial pressure they experienced when raising their own children. "So a lot of them reported actually enjoying being a grandmother more than they enjoyed being a mother," he said."
Words above from article here
h/t Marks Daily Apple here

From personal experience this Grandma (Jan) and Grandad (Eddie) love to spend time with all our family which includes five grandchildren, in the photograph below we were able to make more happy memories with two of them.
Do please share your thoughts about this article in the comments section below.

~ peek-a-boo Grandad we can see you ~
photograph from post here

The best things in life
are the people we love,
the places we've been,
and the memories we've made
along the way.

All the best Jan


My name is Erika. said...

Nice photo of you and your grandchildren. I was very close to one of my grandmothers and I still miss her every day. Thanks for this post. Happy new week!

Tom said...

...I know that our grandchildren are fortunate to have my wife, their grandmother in their lives.

J.P. Alexander said...

Linda entrada aun extraño a mis abuelas. Te mando un beso

Christine said...

Definitely a health benefit for the lucky ones!

Practical Parsimony said...

I know pictures of my grandchildren bring great feelings and good emotions to me.

peppylady (Dora) said...

Spoil them and send them home. It a great life being a grandma.
Coffee is on and stay safe

William Kendall said...


Elephant's Child said...

Trying again.
I love the photo.
I never knew any of my grandparents and sadly will not be one.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

It's amazing how when these grandmothers in the study were young, this study would not have been possible. MRIs have only been around since the early 1970s, so this is a wonderful breakthrough study. I was raised by grandparents, so this study was of great importance to me. I also like how they chose the control group.

Nice photo of you and your grandchildren, Jan.

Margaret D said...

How interesting.
Lovely photo of the 3 of you Jan.

Jo said...

What a lovely photo. I loved all my grandparents, and my own parents were brilliant with my children, they miss them very much.

Valerie-Jael said...

Interesting article. It must be nice to have a family with grandparents!Have a great week, take care, Valerie

eileeninmd said...


Lovely photo of Jan and the grandchildren.
Hubby and I enjoy our time with our grandson!

Jeanie said...

That's a fascinating study. I think Rick has far more granparently instincts than I do, but then they are direct birth line for him and while I adore their dad and uncle, they are still a degree removed. And never having kids of my own as little ones, I simply don't know what to do with them and it gets old a lot faster for me. I think that's probably a terrible thing to say because I do love them to pieces but not in a maternal way so much as a human way. I liked the line about being able to give them back. I'm always so relieved. But as a kid I was very close to my grandma. Of course, proxmity made a huge difference then and I suspect if we lived close enough to see them more often, I would have a completely different feeling.

Miss Val's Creations said...

Interesting study! Grandparents give such unconditional love and understanding. The photo with your grandchildren is adorable!

DVArtist said...

This is an interesting study. I had one grandmother, on my dad's side, that really hated me and my 5 siblings, oh and my mom. We were not full blooded Italian. She made no bone about how she felt about us. My grandmother and grandfather on my mom's side showed us enough love to make up for the other.

R's Rue said...


Fun60 said...

I never knew any of my grandparents so I feel blessed to be able to spend time with my grandchildren.

Kinga K. said...

Trully amazing❤

Rose said...

Oh, I so agree with this...we don't see as much of ours as we used to, and it sure took me a while to get used to it. But seeing her is like a ray of sunshine...and we can just mention a few things she has said or done and start laughing. She keeps trying to talk us to moving in with them....I don't think we ever see her that she doesn't being it up a few times.

Carla from The River said...

LOVE the photo and seeing smiles!!!

Family time and family relationships are so very important.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Wonderful photo of you with two of your grandchildren, Jan! I do love being a grandparent and I agree that grandparents' love and attention add a lot of extra benefits to a child's life.

Phil Slade said...

Ha, ha. That made me laugh but for all the right reasons. My grandparents died fairly young, two in their early sixties, and two more I never knew so it's so good to see grandparents living much longer nowadays to be able to have input to the extended family.

Teresa said...

Solo conocí a una abuela y la quise muchísimo y creo que aún la quiero. Bonita fotografía. Besos.

Conniecrafter said...

This is one thing I won't experience, our only daughter has decided not to have children

Ananka said...

That is really interesting :-)

I am 41 and my daughter turns 3 soon, so I donno how old I will be if she has kids of her own!

Snowbird said...

What a lovely picture of you all! This is a lovely article which had me smiling, especially re giving them back!xxx