A Look Inside Your Pregnant Brain

What’s become clear is that, like romantic love, pregnancy is something that changes the risk and the reward processing circuit of the brain. 

When you’re pregnant, it’s not just our belly getting bigger and your butt getting bigger and your feet getting bigger, just everything getting bigger.  There’s more going on.  Your brain is also going through some changes. 


In fact, Pelion Kim, who is a researcher, found that there is actually volume changes in the brain.  Different areas of the brain, including the parietal lobes, prefrontal cortex, and other areas, actually get bigger.  And it fits in pretty well with research that’s also been done in rodent models.  And what they find is, forget this idea of the mommy brain that being a mom makes you stupid.  It’s actually that the brain rearranges so you can be a better parent.  So you’re better prepared for both the challenges and rewards of being a parent.  

So, mommy rats, hands down, they are faster than non-moms at catching prey, at navigating mazes, at getting back to their babies.  So there’s something going on there that really prepares them.  Not only that, they don’t like cocaine anymore.  So in these really interesting bar press tests, usually rats go nuts for cocaine as they would for sugar pellets.  But when they can bar press for pups, they’d rather have that than the cocaine.  It’s almost like the brain has changed so they prefer their babies to anything else.  

I think it makes a lot of sense because having babies is a lot of commitment.  You have this screaming, pooping, you know, helpless little baby that really, you’re going to be totally responsible for, for several years.  Maybe even beyond 18 years these days.  And if you didn’t have these brain changes to prepare you for it, you’d probably leave them on the side of the road and let them fend for themselves.  So there are a lot of changes going on; we’re just beginning to understand them.  

I think what’s become clear is that, like romantic love, this is something that changes the risk and the reward processing circuit of the brain.  So, of course, it’s making us care for these helpless infants, it’s helping us prepare for the challenges and the rewards, and it allows us to forget what a pain in the butt it was so we actually do it again.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

In U.S. first, drug company faces criminal charges for distributing opioids

It marks a major shift in the government's battle against the opioid crisis.

George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The nation's sixth-largest drug distributor is facing criminal charges related to failing to report suspicious drug orders, among other things.
  • It marks the first time a drug company has faced criminal charges for distributing opioids.
  • Since 1997, nearly 222,000 Americans have died from prescription opioids, partly thanks to unethical doctors who abuse the system.
Keep reading Show less

Following sex, some men have unexpected feelings – study

A new study shows that some men's reaction to sex is not what you'd expect, resulting in a condition previously observed in women.

Credit: Pixabay
Sex & Relationships
  • A new study shows men's feelings after sex can be complex.
  • Some men reportedly get sad and upset.
  • The condition affected 41% of men in the study
Keep reading Show less

Calling out Cersei Lannister: Elizabeth Warren reviews Game of Thrones

The real Game of Thrones might be who best leverages the hit HBO show to shape political narratives.

Photo credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues that Game of Thrones is primarily about women in her review of the wildly popular HBO show.
  • Warren also touches on other parallels between the show and our modern world, such as inequality, political favoritism of the elite, and the dire impact of different leadership styles on the lives of the people.
  • Her review serves as another example of using Game of Thrones as a political analogy and a tool for framing political narratives.
Keep reading Show less