Alterations in hippocampus structure and function during pregnancy and motherhood. The role of corticosterone

Pregnancy and motherhood are life-changing events that often result in cognitive and mood disturbances. Research has shown decreased verbal recall and decreased spatial ability in women during the last trimester of pregnancy. Spatial memory relies in part on the integrity of the hippocampus in the brain, and on the steroid hormone corticosterone, but little is known about the effect of pregnancy and motherhood on these processes and how they relate to memory and learning. Jodi Pawluski is investigating the relationship between corticosterone, hippocampus structure and hippocampus-mediated learning and memory during pregnancy and motherhood. In addition to advancing understanding of how reproductive experience affects neurological, cognitive and hormonal processes in the mother, she hopes her work may contribute to the development of therapies for pregnancy-related diseases such as postpartum depression.