Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure

  title={Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure},
  author={Elseline Hoekzema and Erika Barba-M{\"u}ller and Cristina Pozzobon and Marisol Picado and Florencio Lucco and David Garc{\'i}a-Garc{\'i}a and Juan Carlos Soliva and Adolf Tobe{\~n}a and Manuel Desco and Eveline A. Crone and Agust{\'i}n Ballesteros and Susanna Carmona and {\'O}scar Vilarroya},
  journal={Nature Neuroscience},
Pregnancy involves radical hormone surges and biological adaptations. However, the effects of pregnancy on the human brain are virtually unknown. Here we show, using a prospective ('pre'-'post' pregnancy) study involving first-time mothers and fathers and nulliparous control groups, that pregnancy renders substantial changes in brain structure, primarily reductions in gray matter (GM) volume in regions subserving social cognition. The changes were selective for the mothers and highly consistent… 
Brain plasticity in pregnancy and the postpartum period: links to maternal caregiving and mental health
The changes in brain structure and function that a woman undergoes during the peripartum period are reviewed, outlining associations between these neural alterations and different aspects of maternal care.
Population-based neuroimaging reveals traces of childbirth in the maternal brain
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Brain orchestration of pregnancy and maternal behavior in mice
Unlike females exhibiting lower levels of maternal care, highly maternal females developed transient hypertrophies in somatosensory, entorhinal and retrosplenial cortices among other regions, suggesting coordinated and transient brain modifications associated with maternal performance occurred during gestation and lactation.
The maternal brain: Region‐specific patterns of brain aging are traceable decades after childbirth
It is found that a higher number of previous childbirths were linked to less apparent brain aging in striatal and limbic regions, and the strongest effect was found in the accumbens—a key region in the mesolimbic reward system, which plays an important role in maternal behavior.
The expectant brain – being pregnant causes changes in brain morphology in the early postpartum period
It is concluded that the widespread morphological changes seen in the brain shortly after childbirth reflect substantial neuroplasticity and the experience of pregnancy alone may not be the underlying cause of the adaptations for mothering and caregiving.


The plasticity of human maternal brain: longitudinal changes in brain anatomy during the early postpartum period.
The first months of motherhood in humans are accompanied by structural changes in brain regions implicated in maternal motivation and behaviors, and increased gray matter volume in the midbrain including the hypothalamus, substantia nigra, and amygdala was associated with maternal positive perception of her baby.
The Maternal Brain: An Organ with Peripartal Plasticity
Different forms of peripartum-associated plasticity including changes in neurogenesis and their possible underlying molecular mechanisms are concentrated on and consequences of malfunction in those systems are discussed.
Why the Maternal Brain?
It is clear that the female brain undergoes a significant reorganisation en route to motherhood, the results of which are deep and enduring.
Cognitive Reorganization during Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period: An Evolutionary Perspective
  • M. Anderson, M. Rutherford
  • Psychology, Biology
    Evolutionary psychology : an international journal of evolutionary approaches to psychology and behavior
  • 2012
Investigations of pregnancy-induced cognitive change in human females may benefit by focusing on areas, such as social cognition, where a cognitive advantage would serve a protective function, and by extending the study duration beyond pregnancy into the postpartum period.