News
23/12/2016

IMIM: Pregnancy leads to changes in the mother’s brain

IMIM: Pregnancy leads to changes in the mother’s brain


News from IMIM


A study directed by researchers from the UAB and IMIM are the first to reveal how pregnancy causes long-lasting alterations in brain structure, probably related to improving the mother’s ability to protect and interact with the child. The research was published in Nature Neuroscience. Pregnancy involves radical hormone surges and biological adaptations, but the effects on the brain are still unknown. In this study a team of researchers compared the structure of the brain of women before and after their first pregnancy. This is the first research to show that pregnancy involves long-lasting changes – at least for two years post-partum – in the morphology of a woman's brain.

Using magnetic resonance imaging, the scientists have been able to show that the brains of women who have undergone a first pregnancy present significant reductions in grey matter in regions associated with social cognition. The researchers believe that such changes correspond to an adaptive process of functional specialization towards motherhood. 

In order to conduct the study, researchers compared magnetic resonance images of 25 first-time mothers before and after their pregnancy, of 19 male partners, and of a control group formed by 20 women who were not and had never been pregnant and 17 male partners. They gathered information about the participants during five years and four months. The results of the research directed by Òscar Vilarroya and Susanna Carmona demonstrated a symmetrical reduction in the volume of grey matter in the medial frontal and posterior cortex line, as well as in specific sections of, mainly, prefrontal and temporal cortex in pregnant women. 

More information:
IMIM website

Reference article:
Hoekzema E, Barba-Müller E, Pozzobon C, Picado M, Lucco F, García-García D, Soliva JC, Tobeña A, Desco M, Crone E, Ballesteros A, Carmona S, Vilarroya O. Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure. Nature Neuroscience (2016) doi:10.1038/nn.4458