Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Pregnancy and the Brain
New York Times (Dec. 19, 2016): Pregnancy Changes the Brain in Ways That May Help Mothering, by Pam Belluck:
A recent study notes that pregnancy works changes in the brain, specifically in the part that perceives the feelings of others. Scientists query whether these changes have anything to do with mothers' emotional attachment to their offspring. The change actually involves the loss of gray matter in areas of the brain involved in social cognition, "that ability to register and consider how other people perceive things." The loss of gray matter sounds like a bad thing, but it may simply be a "neutral" offshoot of pregnancy-related stress or a beneficial sequella of pregnancy that prunes and trains the brain to be ready for the challenges of raising children, be they bonding, recognizing social threats, or recognizing the needs of an infant. The study seems to indicate that the more the brains of pregnant women changed, the better mothers they were (measured by emotional attachment, pleasure, and hostility toward the child). There is an analog to these changes in the brain in the brains of adolescents, whose brains sees a decrease of gray matter in several regions that scientists believe provide "fine tuning for the social, emotional and cognitive territory of being a teenager." The study detected no changes in the brains of new fathers.