Skip to main content

An integrative model of adaptations for motherhood during pregnancy and the postpartum period

During pregnancy, the brain experiences important adaptations that prepare women for the challenges of motherhood. Specifically, previous studies have revealed that the social cognition brain network of pregnant women undergoes systematic modifications, which persist for at least two years after childbirth, contributing to how mothers relate with their babies. The project will develop a model of adaptations that occur in women during pregnancy and the postpartum period. The project plans to establish when and how the brain is reorganised during pregnancy, the neuropsychological changes during this period, as well as identify the hormonal mediators that may participate in this brain reorganisation. The ultimate aim of the project is to integrate the neural, neuropsychological and metabolomic findings into a model of the development of maternal behaviour.


  • ERC-2019-ADG – ERC Advanced Grant (883069) (PI: Oscar Vilarroya; Amount: € 2,465,131; Duration: 2020-2025)
  • “la Caixa” Foundation LCF/PR/HR19/52160001 (PI: Oscar Vilarroya; Amount: 476,470 €; Duration: 2019-2022)
  • Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades RTI2018-093952-B-I00 (PI: Oscar Vilarroya; Amount: 133,100 €; Duration: 2019-2021)

Relevant publications

Hoekzema E*, (…) Oscar Vilarroya (2017) Pregnancy changes the brain: transitioning into motherhood involves long-lasting alterations in human brain structure. Nature Neuroscience    20(2): 287-296.

Carmona S*, (…) Vilarroya O*, Desco M, and Hoekzema E (2019) Pregnancy and adolescence entail similar neuroanatomical adaptations: A comparative analysis of cerebral morphometric changes. Hum Brain Mapp. 2019;1–10.

María Paternina-Die, Magdalena Martínez-García, Clara Pretus, (…) Óscar Vilarroya*, Manuel Desco, Susanna Carmona (2020). The Paternal Transition Entails Neuroanatomic Adaptations that Are Associated with the father’s Brain Response to his Infant Cues. Cerebral Cortex Communications, tgaa082,

Martínez-García M, Paternina-Die M, Barba-Müller E, (…) Vilarroya Ó*, Hoekzema E, Carmona S. (2021) Do Pregnancy-Induced Brain Changes Reverse? The Brain of a Mother Six Years after Parturition. Brain Sciences 11(2):168.