Pregnancy leads to switch in priorities, permanent rewiring of brain: Study – Times of India

NEW DELHI: In a recent research, it has been found that pregnancy leads to a permanent rewiring of neurons.
The study conducted on mice revealed that their parenting instincts were triggered by changes in the brain, which is usually witnessed late in pregnancy in response to oestrogen and progesterone, reported The Guardian.
It is believed that similar changes could likely be witnessed in human brains, paving the way for a new understanding of parenting behaviour and mental health.
“We know that the female body changes during pregnancy to prepare for bringing up young. One example is the production of milk, which starts long before giving birth. Our research shows that such preparations are taking place in the brain, too,” Jonny Kohl, who led the research at London’s Francis Crick Institute was quoted saying by The Guardian.
Though Kohl admitted that “parenting is a lot more complex in humans”, the findings were consistent with brain imaging research in women showing changes to brain volume and brain activity that endure long following pregnancy.
The research was conducted on mice, creatures are known to exhibit a significant shift in their behaviour. Virgin female mice typically display little interest in pups, while mouse mothers dedicate the majority of their time to caring for their offspring.
Until now, the common belief was that this behavioural transformation took place during or immediately after birth, potentially influenced by hormones like oxytocin. However, the research has highlighted that this change occurs at an earlier stage and raises the possibility that these behavioural alterations may be enduring.
“We think that these changes, often referred to as ‘baby brain’, cause a change in priority – virgin mice focus on mating, so don’t need to respond to other females’ pups, whereas mothers need to perform robust parental behaviour to ensure pup survival,” said Kohl, as per The Guardian.
“What’s fascinating is that this switch doesn’t happen at birth – the brain is preparing much earlier for this big life change,” he added.

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