Pregnancy may trigger changes in the structure and size of regions in a woman’s brain that are involved in responding to social and emotional cues, a recent study suggests.
Many of these changes appeared to last at least two years after giving birth, the study found. Mothers who had the most pronounced alterations in their brains also scored higher on tests of emotional attachment to their babies than women whose brains underwent subtler changes.
“This study provides the first insights into the impact of pregnancy on the grey matter architecture of the human brain,” said lead study author Elseline Hoekzema of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.
While the exact cause of these shifts in the brain isn’t clear, it’s possible the changes may help women prepare for the social demands of motherhood, the researchers report in the journal Nature Neuroscience.