Matrescence: lifetime impact of motherhood on cognition and the brain

Trends Cogn Sci. 2023 Mar;27(3):302-316. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2022.12.002. Epub 2023 Jan 4.


Profound environmental, hormonal, and neurobiological changes mark the transition to motherhood as a major biosocial life event. Despite the ubiquity of motherhood, the enduring impact of caregiving on cognition and the brain across the lifespan is not well characterized and represents a unique window of opportunity to investigate human neural and cognitive development. By integrating insights from the human and animal maternal brain literatures with theories of cognitive ageing, we outline a framework for understanding maternal neural and cognitive changes across the lifespan. We suggest that the increased cognitive load of motherhood provides an initial challenge during the peripartum period, requiring continuous adaptation; yet when these demands are sustained across the lifespan, they result in increased late-life cognitive reserve.

Keywords: aging; cognition; cognitive reserve; matrescence; motherhood; neurodevelopment.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aging / psychology
  • Animals
  • Brain*
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Aging*
  • Female
  • Humans