Pregnancy Duration and Lactation Period Decide Brain Size in Mammals

According to a research by the researchers at the Durham University, the longer the duration of pregnancy and the breastfeeding period among mammals, the bigger is the growth of the baby’s brain. The growth of the brain is related to the time and energy invested by the mothers. The study was conducted on 128 species of mammals, including human beings. The finding reinforces the advice that breast milk is the best for proper development of the brain. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for initial six months. This should be followed by breastfeed along with solid foods till the age of two years.

The study explains why it is necessary for human beings to breastfeed the babies for about three years and have a pregnancy period of nine months. This is required for the growth of the enormous 1300cc human brains. The anthropologists analyzed the body and the brain size, time and effort spent by the mothers and the life history of mammals like elephants, gorillas and whales. It was observed that the length of pregnancy determines the size of the brain. The lactation period decides the growth of the brain after the birth. Mothers with high metabolic rates can fuel brain growth faster.

The findings help in understanding the implications of evolutionary changes occurring at different stages. More research is needed to see how the brain structure if affected by the prenatal and postnantal growth phases. The research appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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