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Hum Brain Mapp. 2019 Jan 20. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24513. [Epub ahead of print]

Pregnancy and adolescence entail similar neuroanatomical adaptations: A comparative analysis of cerebral morphometric changes.

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Sección de Neuroimagen, Laboratorio de Imagen Médica, Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud Mental, Madrid, Spain.
Sección de Neuroimagen, Laboratorio de Imagen Médica, Unidad de Medicina y Cirugía Experimental, Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Gregorio Marañón, Madrid, Spain.
Faculty of Health Sciences, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Departamento de Bioingeniería e Ingeniería Aeroespacial, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Leganés, Spain.
Institute of Mental Health Vidal i Barraquer, Ramon Llull University, Barcelona, Spain.
Brain and Development Laboratory, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands.
Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands.
Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois and University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Department of Radiology, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois and University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Neuroimaging of mental disorders group, Hospital del Mar Research Institute, Barcelona, Spain.
Unitat de Recerca en Neurociència Cognitiva, Department of Psychiatry and Forensic Medicine, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain.
Assisted Medicine Reproduction, IVI Clinic Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.
Unidad de Imagen Avanzada, Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (F.S.P), Madrid, Spain.


Mapping the impact of pregnancy on the human brain is essential for understanding the neurobiology of maternal caregiving. Recently, we found that pregnancy leads to a long-lasting reduction in cerebral gray matter volume. However, the morphometric features behind the volumetric reductions remain unexplored. Furthermore, the similarity between these reductions and those occurring during adolescence, another hormonally similar transitional period of life, still needs to be investigated. Here, we used surface-based methods to analyze the longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging data of a group of 25 first-time mothers (before and after pregnancy) and compare them to those of a group of 25 female adolescents (during 2 years of pubertal development). For both first-time mothers and adolescent girls, a monthly rate of volumetric reductions of 0.09 mm3 was observed. In both cases, these reductions were accompanied by decreases in cortical thickness, surface area, local gyrification index, sulcal depth, and sulcal length, as well as increases in sulcal width. In fact, the changes associated with pregnancy did not differ from those that characterize the transition during adolescence in any of these measures. Our findings are consistent with the notion that the brain morphometric changes associated with pregnancy and adolescence reflect similar hormonally primed biological processes.


MRI; adolescence; cortex; hormones; neuroanatomy; plasticity; pregnancy


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