Livin' on the MDedge

The neurological super powers of grandma are real


Deer, COVID, how?

Usually humans cannot get close enough to a deer to really be face-to-face, so it’s easy to question how on Earth deer are contracting COVID-19. Well, stranger things have happened, and honestly, we’ve just stopped questioning most of them.

Two deer in a cornfield at sunset petemeade/PxHere

Exhibit A comes to us from a Penn State University study: Eighty percent of deer sampled in Iowa in December 2020 and January 2021 – as part of the state’s chronic wasting disease surveillance program – were found to be positive for COVID-19.

A statement from the university said that “white-tailed deer may be a reservoir for the virus to continually circulate and raise concerns about the emergence of new strains that may prove a threat to wildlife and, possibly, to humans.” The investigators also suggested that deer probably caught the virus from humans and then transmitted it to other deer.

If you or someone you know is a hunter or a white-tailed deer, it’s best to proceed with caution. There’s no evidence that COVID-19 has jumped from deer to humans, but hunters should wear masks and gloves while working with deer, worrying not just about the deer’s face, but also … you know, the gastrointestinal parts, Robert Salata, MD, of University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, told It also shouldn’t be too risky to eat venison, he said, just make sure the meat is cooked thoroughly.

The more you know!

The neurological super powers of grandma are real

What is it about grandmothers that makes them seem almost magical at times? They somehow always know how you feel. And they can almost always tell when something is wrong. They also seem to be the biggest ally a child will have against his or her parents.

A woman makes cookies with her granddaughter Mark Edward Atkinson/Tracey Lee

So what makes these super matriarchs? The answer is in the brain.

Apparently there’s a function in the brains of grandmothers geared toward “emotional empathy.” James Rilling, PhD, of Emory University, lead author of a recent study focused on looking at the brain function of grandmothers, suggested that they’re neurologically tapped into feeling how their grandchildren feel: “If their grandchild is smiling, they’re feeling the child’s joy. And if their grandchild is crying, they’re feeling the child’s pain and distress.”

And then there’s the cute factor. Never underestimate a child’s ability to manipulate his or her grandmother’s brain.

So how do the researchers know this? Functional MRI showed more brain activity in the parts of the brain that deal with emotional empathy and movement in the participating grandmas when shown pictures of their grandchildren. Images of their own adult children lit up areas more associated with cognitive empathy. So less emotional and more mental/logical understanding.

Kids, don’t tell Mom about the secret midnight snacks with grandma. She wouldn’t get it.

Then there’s the grandmother hypothesis, which suggests that women tend to live longer to provide some kind of evolutionary benefit to their children and grandchildren. Evidence also exists that children with positive engagement from their grandmothers tend to have better social and academic outcomes, behavior, and physical health.

A lot of credit on how children turn out, of course, goes to parents, but more can be said about grandmas. Don’t let the age and freshly baked cookies fool you. They have neurologic superpowers within.


Next Article: