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Pregnancy linked to long-term changes in mom’s brain

Loss of gray matter may aid in caring for baby

By
2:40pm, December 19, 2016
pregnancy brain

BABY BRAIN  After pregnancy, women had less gray matter volume (yellow and orange) in regions of the brain (four different views shown), a change thought to reflect neural refinement. Many of these brain areas were active when mothers saw pictures of their babies.

Pregnancy changes nearly everything about an expectant mother’s life. That includes her brain. Pregnancy selectively shrinks gray matter to make a mom’s brain more responsive to her baby, and those changes last for years, scientists report online December 19 in Nature Neuroscience.

 

“This study, coupled with others, suggests that a woman’s reproductive history can have long-lasting, possibly permanent changes to her brain health,” says neuroscientist Liisa Galea of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, who was not involved in the study.

Researchers performed detailed anatomy scans of the brains of 25 women who wanted to get pregnant with their first child. More scans were performed about two months after the women gave birth. Pregnancy left signatures so strong that researchers could predict whether women had been pregnant based on the changes in their brains.

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