Pregnancy changes a woman’s brain, altering the size and structure of areas involved in perceiving the feelings and perspectives of others, according to a first-of-its-kind study published Monday.
Most of these changes remained two years after giving birth, at least into the babies’ toddler years. And the more pronounced the brain changes, the higher mothers scored on a measure of emotional attachment to their babies.
“Just fascinating,” said Dr. Ronald E. Dahl, director of the Institute of Human Development at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. He said the researchers’ interpretation that changes in the brain enhance women’s maternal responses is “provocative, and I think it’s likely to be true.”
“真是太奇妙了，”没有参与这项研究的加利福尼亚大学伯克利分校人类发展研究所院长罗纳德·E·达尔（Ronald E. Dahl）博士说。这项研究的论文发表在《自然神经科学》（Nature Neuroscience）杂志上。达尔说，研究人员对大脑变化增强女性母性反应的解释“令人兴奋，我认为可能的确就是这样”。
In the study, researchers scanned the brains of women who had never conceived before, and again after they gave birth for the first time. The results were remarkable: loss of gray matter in several brain areas involved in a process called social cognition or “theory of mind,” the ability to register and consider how other people perceive things.
It’s possibile the loss is “part of the brain’s program for dealing with the future,” said Paul Thompson, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California who was not involved in the study. The study strongly leans toward this possibility. Hormone surges in pregnancy might cause “pruning or cellular adaptation that is helpful,” he said, streamlining certain brain areas to be more efficient at mothering skills “from nurturing to extra vigilance to teaching.”
这种减少可能是“处理未来的大脑程序的一部分，”没有参与这项研究的南加州大学（University of Southern California）神经科学家保罗·汤普森（Paul Thompson）说。该研究强烈倾向于这种可能性。他说，怀孕期间的激素激增可能会导致一些“有用的削减和细胞适应”，从而简化脑部的某些区域，提高母亲“从提供营养到保持警惕到教育”等各方面的技能。
“We certainly don’t want to put a message out there on the lines of ‘pregnancy makes you lose your brain,’ as we don’t believe this is the case,” said Elseline Hoekzema, a researcher at Leiden University in the Netherlands, who led the study at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in Spain.
“我们肯定不想发出‘怀孕让你变傻’这样的信息，因为我们不觉得情况是这样的，”荷兰莱顿大学（Leiden University）的研究员埃尔斯利娜·赫克泽马（Elseline Hoekzema）说道。她领导了在西班牙巴塞罗那自治大学（Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona）进行的这项研究。
Pregnancy, she explained, may help a woman’s brain specialize in “a mother’s ability to recognize the needs of her infant, to recognize social threats or to promote mother-infant bonding.”
The researchers also scanned the brains of 17 men who were not fathers and 19 first-time fathers before and after their partners’ pregnancies. The two male groups showed no difference in brain volume.