Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure

Elseline Hoekzema, Erika Barba-Müller, Cristina Pozzobon, Marisol Picado, Florencio Lucco, David García-García, Juan Carlos Soliva, Adolf Tobeña, Manuel Desco, Eveline A. Crone, Agustín Ballesteros, Susanna Carmona, Oscar Vilarroya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

222 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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, correctly classifying all women as having undergone pregnancy or not in-between sessions. Interestingly, the volume reductions showed a substantial overlap with brain regions responding to the women's babies postpartum. Furthermore, the GM volume changes of pregnancy predicted measures of postpartum maternal attachment, suggestive of an adaptive process serving the transition into motherhood. Another follow-up session showed that the GM reductions endured for at least 2 years post-pregnancy. Our data provide the first evidence that pregnancy confers long-lasting changes in a woman's brain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-296
JournalNature Neuroscience
Volume20
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this