Brain scans in a new study show changes in the size and structure of a woman�s brain before pregnancy and after giving birth.
Twenty-five women�s brain scans showed changes in the cortex, the gray matter that�s the outermost layer of the brain. In particular, there was loss in an area affecting the theory of mind which involves our social cognition.
Researchers say instead of having a negative impact on women, evidence from the study shows this change enhances a mother�s perception of others� feelings. In other words, it makes her more empathic toward her baby.
Questionnaires show the more emotionally attached a woman was to her baby, the more changes they saw in her brain scans. They also did scans of the women while they were shown pictures of their babies and these same areas were activated.
The changes in gray matter were maintained for at least two years after birth. This further suggests that this is part of an adaptive process that assists mothers during the baby�s most vulnerable years.
What about fathers? Researchers did scan the dads but saw no changes in them nor in non-pregnant women.
We bet a lot of people agree with us when we say we're grateful for our moms' brain changes because all that newfound compassion is probably what kept them from killing us!
For more information…
Pregnancy Causes Lasting Changes in a Woman's Brain
New mothers showed evidence of neural remodeling up to two years after giving birth...
Pregnancy Changes the Brain in Ways That May Help Mothering
Pregnancy changes a woman�s brain, altering the size and structure of areas involved in perceiving the feelings and perspectives of others, according to a first-of-its-kind study...
Pregnancy Leads to Long-Lasting Changes in Human Brain Structure
Hoekzema, E. et al. Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure. Nature Neuroscience. 20, 287-296 (2017).