'Mom brain' is real: Study suggests motherhood permanently alters brain
A mother holds her newborn baby at a hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas in this Nov. 11, 2011, file photo. (Michael Zamora / Corpus Christi Caller-Times via AP)
Emily Chan, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, May 25, 2015 6:05PM EDT
A new study seems to confirm what many mothers already knew: pregnancy and motherhood can permanently alter your brain and affect how it responds to treatments later in life.
The study, released Monday, tested how types of hormone therapy affected rats that had experienced motherhood, as opposed to rats that had not.
It found that mother rats reacted to the treatment differently than their childless counterparts.
The results suggest pregnancy and motherhood permanently alter the brain and how it reacts to hormones, the study author said.
“Our most recent research shows that previous motherhood alters cognition and neuroplasticity in response to hormone therapy, demonstrating that motherhood permanently alters the brain," Liisa Galea said in a statement.
Galea, a researcher at the University of British Columbia, specializes in how hormones affect the brain and human behaviour. On her website, she writes: “As anyone who has gone through puberty, menopause or pregnancy can attest, hormones have a profound impact on our mind.”
For her latest research, Galea wanted to see if motherhood influences how women respond to estrogen hormone treatments, which are often prescribed to treat brain disorders in middle-aged and older women.
To do this, Galea and her team gave rats estrone-based hormone therapy and observed how it affected their thinking. Estrone, a form of estrogen, is a major component of the most-commonly prescribed hormone treatment in the U.S.
Galea and her team found the estrone treatment improved learning in rats that had never given birth, but impaired learning in rats that had.
In the future, Galea said the results could be used to help decide which women should be prescribed certain types of hormones.
"Pregnancy and motherhood are life-changing events resulting in marked alterations in the psychology and physiology of a woman,” she said in the statement. “Our results argue that these factors should be taken into account when treating brain disorders in women.”