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American neuroscientists have found that after giving birth mothers anatomical changes occur in regions of the brain responsible for attachment to children and motivation of maternal behavior. In the first 3-4 months after birth increases the amount of gray matter in areas of the prefrontal and parietal cortex, hypothalamus, amygdala and other parts of the brain that women are driven in response to stimuli associated with toddlers. Reduce the amount of gray matter in any of the parts of the brain in mothers have been recorded.

Experiments on animals have shown that changes in the emotional motivation of behavior (eg, formation of a stable attachment to the marital partner or calf) may be accompanied by serious structural rearrangements of the brain. In this case can not be limited by changing the amount of certain receptors on the neuronal membrane (see: Love and faithfulness are controlled by dopamine, "Elements", 07.12.2005) or the emergence of new dendritic spines (see: Craig Kinsley, Kelly Lambert. Maternal brain; Formation memories can now be seen under a microscope, "Elements", 01.12.2009). Changes can be completely macroscopic example, in certain regions of the brain associated with emotional regulation of behavior, body neurons can grow, leading to a marked increase in gray matter volume.

Recently it has been shown using fMRI (see: Magnetic Resonance Imaging), that area of ​​the brain that are responsible for the rat maternal behavior in women, new mothers, too, are activated in response to stimuli associated with "malyshovom" theme. In rat mothers communicate with cubs shortly after birth leads to structural changes in some of these areas, namely in the medial preoptic area of ​​the rostral part of the hypothalamus (MPO), basolateral amygdala, parietal and prefrontal cortex. So it was natural to assume that women can be similar changes. So whether it is in fact, decided to find out, scientists from several American universities.

Studied structural changes in the brain during the mothers from 2-4 weeks to 3-4 months after delivery. The study involved 19 mothers (mean age 33.3 years), have recently given birth healthy full-term infants. All the participants were white, right-handed, married or having a permanent roommate, and all fed their babies. All mothers were tested for emotional attitude toward your child, you had to choose any number of the 12 "positive" words relating to the child ("beautiful", "ideal", "extraordinary" ...), and 32 similar words related to motherhood (" happy "," happy "," proud ", etc.).

Each participant brain scanned using fMRI twice: the first time after 2-4 weeks after birth, the second - in 3-4 months. The resulting three-dimensional images were then processed with special programs that can measure the volume of gray matter in certain parts of the brain (see: Statistical parametric mapping, SPM).

In the interval between the first and second scan in women significantly increased the volume of gray matter in many areas of the prefrontal and parietal cortex, thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala, substantia nigra (substantia nigra) and other departments related to emotional regulation of behavior.

Reducing the amount of gray matter in any of the parts of the brain have been observed (which is clearly contrary to popular belief that young mothers' glupeyut ").

It turned out that the number of enthusiastic epithets bestowed mother to her baby during the test 2-4 weeks after birth, is a good predictor of the growth of gray matter in the hypothalamus, amygdala and substantia nigra in the next 2-3 months: who chose more epithets in order and added more gray matter in these departments. The degree of enthusiasm towards maternity, however, does not correlate with increase of gray matter.

From animal experiments it is known that those departments that have grown in the studied women play a key role in motivation and emotional regulation of maternal behavior. For example, damage MPO negative impact on maternal solicitude rats and increases the likelihood of infanticide; rats there was a positive correlation between the density of MPO and prolonged contact with the cubs. Motherhood also causes growth of the rat substantia nigra - the department is an important part of dopaminergic "reward system." Apparently, it is from this department depends on the amount of pleasure derived from contact with the mother of a toddler.

Furthermore, it was previously shown that those portions of the intermediate medium and brain which increased the examined women strongly excited in response to the "malyshovom" incentives for those mothers who express more excitement regarding their children in psychological tests. It has now become clear that the rapture, apparently contribute to widening of the gray matter in the respective sections.

Some experiments conducted on animals show that the structural changes occurring in the brain of mothers not only stimulate maternal behavior, but also improve the overall intelligence. For example, childless female rodents on average perform worse with some problems, such as a maze, compared with females of the same age who have young. Is this true also for women, future studies will show (of course, if such tests are not considered unethical).

Source: Pilyoung Kim et al. The Plasticity of Human Maternal Brain: Longitudinal Changes in Brain Anatomy During the Early Postpartum Period (PDF, 100 KB) / /Behavioral Neuroscience. 2010. V. 124. P. 695-700.


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