Characterization of gestational brain remodeling in human mothers

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In this PhD thesis, three research articles examine the brain morphometrics, intrinsic and extrinsic mediating factors, and the durability of the structural brain changes occurring during the transition to parenthood. These studies follow first-time mothers and fathers, scanning their brains with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) before pregnancy and then again at different moments of the postpartum period. Section 1 describes the motivation behind this thesis, as well as the implications each research article has in the health care system, including perinatal mental wellbeing, family policies, and brain aging. Section 2 introduces the terms neuroplasticity and maternal behavior, explains how pregnancy hormones and infant cues activate and maintain maternal behavior, and revises the current knowledge of the maternal brain adaptations both in rodents and humans. The section finishes by stating which gaps of knowledge of the parental brain field are addressed by the present thesis. Section 3 states the three objectives of the thesis. The following three sections correspond to the research articles, entitled: “Pregnancy and adolescence entail similar neuroanatomical adaptations: A comparative analysis of cerebral morphometric changes”, “First-time fathers show longitudinal gray matter cortical volume reductions: evidence from two international samples”, and “Do Pregnancy-Induced Brain Changes Reverse? The Brain of a Mother Six Years after Parturition”. Then, Section 7 discusses the broader significance of these findings, the insight they have provided of the neuroplasticity of the parental brain, and future directions of the current work. Finally, Section 8 gathers the general conclusions of the work. Of note, this thesis will refer to mothers as persons who identify as women that undergo pregnancy through natural or assisted processes, and to transition to motherhood as the process including pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Tesis por compendio de publicaciones
Cortex, Brain plasticity, Neuroanatomy, Neuroplasticity, Pregnancy, Maternal brain, Magnetic resonance imaging, MRI
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