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Why mothers care: New study on how pregnancy hormones change the brain

Wednesday 1 July 2020 3:44pm

Dave Grattan and Rosie Brown June 2020Dr Rosie Brown and Prof Dave Grattan have received funding from the Health Research Council of New Zealand to investigate how pregnancy hormones influence the mother’s brain to ensure she looks after her offspring appropriately. The project is co-led by the two researchers from the Departments of Physiology and Anatomy, respectively.

The survival of infants depends critically on maternal care which is regulated by hormone-sensitive neural circuits in the mother’s brain. One of these pregnancy hormones, prolactin, is known to influence a particular circuit in the hypothalamus, but how its neurons are connected to other parts of the brain and what aspects of maternal care they are involved in remains unclear. The project, over the duration of 3 years, will anatomically map the projections of the circuit and also manipulate their activity to provide insights into how hormones regulate maternal care and the development of maternal-infant bonds.