Maternal brain resting-state connectivity in the postpartum period

Alexander J. Dufford, Andrew Erhart, Pilyoung Kim

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23 Scopus citations


In the postpartum period, the maternal brain experiences both structural and functional plasticity. Although we have a growing understanding of the responses of the human maternal brain to infant stimuli, little is known about the intrinsic connectivity among those regions during the postpartum months. Resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) provides a measure of the functional architecture of the brain based upon intrinsic functional connectivity (ie, the temporal correlation in blood oxygenation level dependent signal when the brain is not engaged in a specific task). In the present study, we used resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine how later postpartum months are associated with rsFC and maternal behaviours. We recruited a sample of 47 socioeconomically diverse first-time mothers with singleton pregnancies. Because the amygdala has been shown to play a critical role in maternal behaviours in the postpartum period, this was chosen as the seed for a seed-based correlation analysis. For the left amygdala, later postpartum months were associated with greater connectivity with the anterior cingulate gyrus, left nucleus accumbens, right caudate and left cerebellum (P < 0.05, false discovery rate corrected). Furthermore, in an exploratory analysis, we observed indications that rsFC between the left amygdala and left nucleus accumbens was positively associated with maternal structuring during a mother child-interaction. In addition, later postpartum months were associated with greater connectivity between the right amygdala and the bilateral caudate and right putamen. Overall, we provide evidence of relationships between postpartum months and rsFC in the regions involved in salience detection and regions involved in maternal motivation. Greater connectivity between the amygdala and nucleus accumbens may play a role in positive maternal behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12737
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 British Society for Neuroendocrinology


  • brain
  • connectivity
  • maternal
  • postpartum
  • resting-state


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