Baby Brain

December 21, 2016

SHE BRISBANE thought the following article in the London Times in which Tom Whipple reported about “Baby brain”, would strike a chord with readers.

Baby brain is real, but has nothing to do with being ditzy of forgetful, wrote Whipple.

He said, instead, a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, suggested it was about preparation for becoming a mother.

Whipple continued:

For the first time, scans have shown that having a baby changes a women’s brain, possibly permanently – and it may even be that the greater the changes are, the better the women adjusts to her new role.

The research looked at the brains of 25 first-time mothers before and after pregnancy, and two years later.

It found that there were major structural changes in regions associated with empathising and understanding another person’s needs.

Compared with women who had not been pregnant, there was a significant reduction in grey matter in these areas, leading Elseline Hoekzema, from the Autonomous University of Barcelona to suggest it may be an adaptive change to make women better mothers.

“The ability to understand what someone is thinking, feeling and intending is the kind of thing a mother needs,” she said.

“You can imagine that someone who relates to and recognises the needs of an infant would do better in taking care of children.”

Although a drop in grey matter sounds like a negative effect, it is not necessarily so.

“There’s another period characterised by a great reduction in grey matter volume – adolescence,” Dr Hoekzema said.

“This is a very necessary process, which involves the pruning of unnecessary synapses and that is thought to lead to a more efficient and specialised network.

So consistent was the effect that the scientists could tell from scans who had been pregnant.

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