Population-based neuroimaging reveals traces of childbirth in the maternal brain

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Oct 29;116(44):22341-22346. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1910666116. Epub 2019 Oct 15.


Maternal brain adaptations have been found across pregnancy and postpartum, but little is known about the long-term effects of parity on the maternal brain. Using neuroimaging and machine learning, we investigated structural brain characteristics in 12,021 middle-aged women from the UK Biobank, demonstrating that parous women showed less evidence of brain aging compared to their nulliparous peers. The relationship between childbirths and a "younger-looking" brain could not be explained by common genetic variation or relevant confounders. Although prospective longitudinal studies are needed, the results suggest that parity may involve neural changes that could influence women's brain aging later in life.

Keywords: brain imaging; genetics; machine learning; pregnancy and childbirth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Aged
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning
  • Middle Aged
  • Parturition*