Mothers are so powerful, even their voices can provide comfort from afar.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Psychology knew that a mother's touch can stimulate the release of oxytocin-sometimes called the "love hormone"-in their children. They wondered: would a mother's voice do the same?
Apparently, yes. Researchers asked a group of girls age 7 to 12 to answer math problems and give an impromptu speech in front of a panel of strangers. Not surprisingly, the girls experienced an increase in cortisol, a hormone related to stress.
The girls were then separated into three groups. One group was allowed to talk and be touched by their moms. Another group could only talk to their moms over the phone. A third group simply watched a video.
The girls who could touch and talk with their moms experienced a rise in oxytocin, which dropped the stress levels significantly. What's surprising is that the girls who only talked on the phone to mom felt the same amount of hormonal release.
The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, has sparked a great deal of interest.
"I think it's made such a splash because it's so nice for moms who have to work away from home," says lead author Leslie Seltzer, a biological anthropologist. "At least they can talk over the phone" and help provide comfort.
Next, Seltzer wants to find out whether boys experience the same stress relief from mom's voice as girls. Also, she's curious whether the mom's tone of voice matters, or whether simply her words of wisdom provide the salve.
Lisa Applegate is a freelance writer and mom of one living in Chicago.
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