Columbus Day may lie ahead of us still, but Thanksgiving is coming up fast. When you make your list of things you’re thankful for this fall, you may want to remember to thank your mother.

Here are five reasons why.

Mom’s Voice Helps Baby’s Brain Develop
Research from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston shows the sound of a mother’s voice and heartbeat can make her baby’s brain grow. Doctors studied the development of 40 premature babies who spent most of their time alone in an incubator. Half of the babies listened to three hours of recordings of their mother’s voice and heartbeat each day, through tiny speakers piped into their beds.

By the end of the study, the babies who listened to their mom had developed a significantly larger auditory cortex.

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Another study at the University of Helsinki showed that humans begin our language learning in utero. Researchers gave pregnant women a series of recorded words (and variations on those words) to play during their last trimester of pregnancy. When they tested these babies after birth, neuro-imaging showed the babies were using the memory centers of their brain — they recognized the recorded words. Babies in the control group did not.

Science is now confirming what most moms already know in their heart. For example: The sound of a mother’s voice and heartbeat can make her baby’s brain grow.

But don’t start placing music headphones on a pregnant belly. Scientist also say too much noise can overstimulate your baby and disrupt his or her sleeping patterns. In the end, it’s just best to listen to your mother.

Motherhood Makes Women Smarter
We all know the teenage brain undergoes serious transformation during the formative years — change that’s mostly driven by raging hormones. Science now says that pregnancy may have a similar effect.

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A recent study from Longwood University in Virginia shows that women who are mothers may be better equipped for solving problems, dealing with stress, and retaining information. On a cellular level, motherhood has been shown to increase the number of, and the capacity of, the neurons in a brain. During pregnancy, individual neurons expand to produce more proteins and increase the number of branches that connect to different neurons.

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The connection between mother and child may go even deeper. Stunning results from a new study shows that the placenta — an organ that helps nurture the baby in the womb — may actually transfer cells from the mother to the child, and vice versa. Children’s cells have been found in their mother’s organs, including in her brain, decades after birth. Even more remarkably, these cells seem to indicate a lower risk for Alzheimer’s in older women.

So “pregnancy brain” is real, but it’s probably making women smarter and healthier, not more absentminded.

Storytelling Mothers Strengthen Kids Emotionally
Tired of hearing the same stories over and over again from your mom? Those stories may be building your emotional intelligence and adding depth to your character, according to research from the University of Central Florida.

The study involved 42 families whose parents were asked to reminisce about past experiences. These experiences covered a variety of topics, including conflict resolution, happy memories, and dealing with sadness or other difficult emotions. Mothers in the study elaborated more than the fathers. They also included more emotional terms and helped explain those emotions to their children. And the increased emotional engagement gave the children greater abilities to recognize and process their own feelings.

Related: Mothers’ Milk Share Mania

Breastfeeding Boosts Baby’s Immune and Digestive System
There are numerous benefits to breastfeeding, according to Ruth Lawrence, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester. Here are a few:

  • Breast milk helps a baby’s stomach develop properly and protects against long-term digestive disorders, like celiac disease and Crohn’s disease.
  • Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which bonds a mother to her baby and helps the mother’s uterus to contract and heal after birth.
  • Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of ovarian and breast cancer later in life. Their babies have a lower risk for childhood cancers.
  • A woman’s body produces colostrum — a thick substance high in fat and protein — just before giving birth. The colostrum also packs a punch in antibodies that protect the infant from getting sick.
  • Breast milk helps babies absorb calcium and develop a healthy bone structure.
  • Breastfeeding is both environmentally friendly and helps new mothers regulate their weight gain from the pregnancy.

Cavemen Ancestors Said ‘Mother’
Mark Pagel, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Reading, has determined a list of 23 words that have been “ultra-conserved” across the millennia — and yes, there is a maternal link here.

We’re talking about words that are at least 15,000 years old. The words predate the original Proto-Indo-European language and developed during the Mesolithic age, when we still had saber-toothed cats and the woolly rhinoceros and woolly mammoth.

Pagel and his team studied 700 languages across the globe, including Inuit-Yupik (the language family of native Alaskans) and Dravidian (the language family of South Asia). Their study compiled a small list of words that all languages have in common. Among these words? Thou, fire, worm, spit, hear, ashes, and — yes — mother.