News | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | December 28, 2016

MRI Shows Pregnancy Leads to Changes in the Mother's Brain

Researchers explore for the first time the impact of pregnancy on the structure of the human brain

pregnancy brain, pregnant brain, pregnancy's effect on the brain

An image from the study showing brain volume changes in women post pregnancy. Image by Oscar Vilarroya.

 

 

December 28, 2016 — 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 (MRI), 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. "These changes may reflect, at least in part, a mechanism of synaptic pruning, which also takes place in adolescence, where weak synapses are eliminated giving way to more efficient and specialized neural networks", said Elseline Hoekzema, co-lead author of the article.

According to Erika Barba, the other co-lead author, "these changes concern brain areas associated with functions necessary to manage the challenges of motherhood".

In fact, researchers found that the areas with grey matter reductions overlapped with brain regions activated during a functional neuroimaging session in which the mothers of the study watched images of their own babies.

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. "These areas correspond to a great extent with a network associated with processes involved in social cognition and self-focused processing", indicates Susanna Carmona.

The analyses of the study determine with great reliability whether any woman from the study had been pregnant depending on the changes in the brain structure. They were even able to predict the mother's attachment to her baby in the postpartum period based on these brain changes.

The study took into account variations in both women who had undergone fertility treatments and women who had become pregnant naturally, and the reductions in grey matter were practically identical in both groups.

Researchers did not observe any changes in memory or other cognitive functions during the pregnancies and therefore believe that the loss of grey matter does not imply any cognitive deficits, but rather: "The findings point to an adaptive process related to the benefits of better detecting the needs of the child, such as identifying the newborn's emotional state. Moreover, they provide primary clues regarding the neural basis of motherhood, perinatal mental health and brain plasticity in general", says Oscar Vilarroya.

Elseline Hoekzema (researcher at the UAB at the time of the study, but currently working at Leiden University) and Erika Barba-Müller (UAB) are the lead authors of the article published in Nature Neuroscience.

The study was directed by Òscar Vilarroya, from the Cognitive Neuroscience Research Unit of the Department of Psychiatry and Legal Medicine at the UAB, and coordinator of the research group Neuroimaging of Mental Disorders at the IMIM Foundation, and co-directed by Susana Carmona. Carmona was a researcher at the UAB at the time of the study and now at the University Carlos III, Madrid, and affiliated to the CIBER of Mental Health (CIBERSAM).

Also collaborating in the research were Cristina Pozzobon, Florencio Lucco and Agustín Ballesteros (Valencian Infertility Institute, IVI); Marisol Picado (Hospital Clínic); Eveline A. Crone (Leiden University); David García-García and Manuel Desco (University Carlos III and Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Gregorio Marañón, Madrid); and Juan Carlos Soliva and Adolf Tobeña (UAB).

Read the article in Nature Neuroscience at  www.nature.com/neuro/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nn.4458.html.

 

Related Content

breast cancer screening, substantial overdiagnosis, Annals of Internal Medicine study
News | Mammography | January 19, 2017
Breast cancer screening in Denmark was associated with a substantial increase in the incidence of nonadvanced tumors...
automated volumetric breast density, Elizabeth Wende Breast Care, EWBC, American Journal of Roentgenology, mammographic sensitivity
News | Breast Density | January 18, 2017
Researchers from Elizabeth Wende Breast Care (EWBC) have demonstrated that automated volumetric breast density has a...
stress, brain activity, cardiovascular risk, PET-CT, MGH, ISSMS, The Lancet study
News | Neuro Imaging | January 18, 2017
A study led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISSMS) investigators...
Iradimed, FDA clearance, MRIdium 3860+ IV infusion pump system, MRI-compatible,
Technology | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | January 17, 2017
Iradimed Corp. announced in December that it received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 510(k) clearance for its...
Siemens, Biogen, joint development, MRI tools, multiple sclerosis
News | Neuro Imaging | January 17, 2017
January 17, 2017 — Siemens Healthineers and Biogen have announced the companies plan to jointly develop...
News | Breast Imaging | January 17, 2017
Seno Medical Instruments, Inc. announced results from two analyses of the company's European MAESTRO post-market...
MRgFUS
News | Focused Ultrasound Therapy | January 17, 2017
Insightec, a leader in MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) therapy, announced today that the Japanese Ministry of...
MD Buyline, James Laskaris, five medical technology innovations, very near future

The MARIA microwave radar breast-imaging system from Micrima Ltd. received European regulatory approval in 2015 and is currently involved in several clinical trials throughout the U.K.

Feature | Imaging | January 17, 2017
January 17, 2017 — James Laskaris, emerging technology analyst at MD Buyline, recently offered his perspective on fiv
MIM Software, BK Ultrasound, bkFusion, MRI Fusion Biopsy System, prostate cancer, RSNA 2016
Technology | Fusion Imaging Software | January 03, 2017
MIM Software Inc. announced in November the commercial introduction of its MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) Prostate...
Philips, e-Alert, MRI, Most Innovative IoT Solution Award, World Communication Awards
News | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | January 03, 2017
Royal Philips recently announced that its e-Alert was awarded “Most Innovative IoT Solution” at the World Communication...
Overlay Init