Pregnancy and childbirth have profound, often long-lasting effects on brain physiology, mood, and behavior. New data on the neuroscience of the maternal experience was presented at Neuroscience 2022, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of information on the brain and health.
Maternal mental health problems are among the most common complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Of the approximately 3.5 million people who give birth each year in the United States, about 20 percent suffer from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. If left untreated, these diseases can have long-term negative consequences for parents, children, families and society. Research on brain changes associated with maternal experiences is beginning to unravel the neural mechanisms underlying adaptive changes and perinatal mental illness.
Today’s new data shows that:
- Susceptibility or resistance to postpartum depression in a rodent model is associated with changes in neuroimmune markers and hormones that may serve as risk biomarkers or possible therapeutic targets for this condition. (Janas Gifford, University of Delaware)
- Factors that regulate gene expression in learning and memory networks may mediate the long-term effects of maternal experience in mouse brains. (Ian S. Mays, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai)
- The long-term antidepressant effects of allopregnanolone in postpartum depression may be related to the effect on the coordination of activity in brain regions associated with mood. (Jamie Maguire, Tufts University School of Medicine)
“The neuroscience data presented today touches on different aspects of the transition to motherhood at different levels of research and in different areas of the brain,” says session moderator Jodi Pavlusky, a neuroscientist and psychotherapist whose research is affiliated with the University of Rennes 1 and who studies how motherhood changes the brain. “This study of the maternal brain provides important insights into the neuroscience of parenting and has implications for the detection and treatment of perinatal mental illness.”
This study was supported by national funding agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, and private funding agencies. To learn more about the mothering experience and the brain, visit BrainFacts.org.