Format

Send to

Choose Destination
Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2020 Feb;112:104507. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.104507. Epub 2019 Nov 5.

Becoming a mother entails anatomical changes in the ventral striatum of the human brain that facilitate its responsiveness to offspring cues.

Author information

1
Brain and Development Research Center, Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands; Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC), Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands. Electronic address: e.a.hoekzema@fsw.leidenuniv.nl.
2
PROMENTA Research Center, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway; NORMENT, Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Oslo University Hospital & Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway; Department of Psychiatry, Diakonhjemmet Hospital, Oslo, Norway.
3
Brain and Development Research Center, Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands; Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC), Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands.
4
Unitat de Recerca en Neurociència Cognitiva, Departament de Psiquiatria i Medicina Legal, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.
5
Instituto Valenciano de Infertilidad, Barcelona, Spain.
6
Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Gregorio Marañón, Madrid, Spain; Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud Mental (CIBERSAM), Madrid, Spain.
7
Departamento de Bioingeniería e Ingeniería Aeroespacial, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain; Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Gregorio Marañón, Madrid, Spain; Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud Mental (CIBERSAM), Madrid, Spain; Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (CNIC), Spain.
8
Unitat de Recerca en Neurociència Cognitiva, Departament de Psiquiatria i Medicina Legal, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Fundació IMIM, Barcelona, Spain.
9
Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Gregorio Marañón, Madrid, Spain; Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud Mental (CIBERSAM), Madrid, Spain; Departamento de Bioingeniería e Ingeniería Aeroespacial, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain.

Abstract

In mothers, offspring cues are associated with a powerful reinforcing value that motivates maternal care. Animal studies show that this is mediated by dopamine release into the nucleus accumbens, a core component of the brain's reward system located in the ventral striatum (VStr). The VStr is also known to respond to infant signals in human mothers. However, it is unknown whether pregnancy modifies the anatomy or functionality of this structure, and whether such modifications underlie its strong reactivity to offspring cues. Therefore, we analyzed structural and functional neuroimaging data from a unique pre-conception prospective cohort study involving first-time mothers investigated before and after their pregnancy as well as nulliparous control women scanned at similar time intervals. First, we delineated the anatomy of the VStr in each subject's neuroanatomical space and examined whether there are volumetric changes in this structure across sessions. Then, we tested if these changes could predict the mothers' brain responses to visual stimuli of their infants. We found decreases in the right VStr and a trend for left VStr reductions in the women who were pregnant between sessions compared to the women who were not. Furthermore, VStr volume reductions across pregnancy were associated with infant-related VStr responses in the postpartum period, with stronger volume decreases predicting stronger functional activation to offspring cues. These findings provide the first indications that the transition to motherhood renders anatomical adaptations in the VStr that promote the strong responsiveness of a mother's reward circuit to cues of her infant.

KEYWORDS:

MRI; Maternal brain; Nucleus accumbens; Pregnancy; Reward circuit; Ventral striatum

PMID:
31757430
DOI:
10.1016/j.psyneuen.2019.104507
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center