The peripartum period is accompanied by dramatic changes in hormones and a host of new behaviours in response to experience with offspring. Both maternal experience and maternal hormones can have a significant impact upon the brain and behaviour. This review outlines recent studies demonstrating modifications in hippocampal plasticity across the peripartum period, as well as the putative hormonal mechanisms underlying these changes and their modulation by stress. In addition, the impact of reproductive experience upon the ageing hippocampus is discussed. Finally, we consider how these changes in hippocampal structure may play a role in postpartum cognitive function and mood disorders, as well as age-related cognitive decline.
Keywords: cognition; corticosterone; depression; lactation; neurogenesis; postpartum.
© 2014 British Society for Neuroendocrinology.