Pregnancy resculpts women’s brains for at least 2 years, by Meredith Wadman.


Pregnancy causes loss of grey matter in specific regions of the brain, including the hippocampus. This is probably due to synaptic pruning. If you show new mothers pictures of their babies, the modified areas of the brain become highly active.

This pioneering work by Elseline Hoekzema, a neuroscientist at Leiden University the Netherlands who is also the pregnant mother of a 2-year-old, is the first to demonstrate widespread anatomical changes in the pregnant human brain.

It also shows that the changes last for at least 2 years. “It opens the door to the possibility that it might cause changes in parenting that might have implications in decision-making and behaviour later in life,” says Mel Rutherford, an evolutionary psychologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.

Pregnancy resculpts women’s brains for at least 2 years.

See also:

Pregnancy Causes Lasting Changes in a Woman’s Brain.

Connectome, by Sebastian Seung.

Read. This. Book.connectomecover
This one is in my top three psychology books for A level students to read this year. It is exciting because it sketches out some future directions that cognitive neuroscience is going to take in the coming years and decades.
When Galileo pointed his telescope at the night sky, he saw for the first time the machinery of planetary motion. This laid the foundations for our modern understanding of astronomy. The same is happening today in brain science. The ongoing improvement in brain scanning is driving new understanding of how the brain actually works. This book is a guide to the road ahead.
Not only that, but the first few chapters are a brilliant primer on the basics of neuroscience and biopsychology, and will be great revision for this part of the exam.
A really interesting read, and very accessible.
“A connectome is the totality of connections between the neurons in a nervous system.”
“In the nineteenth century, the American psychologist William James wrote eloquently of the stream of consciousness, the continuous flow of thoughts through the mind. But James failed to note that every stream has a bed. Without this groove in the earth, the water would not know in which direction to flow. Since the connectome defines the pathways along which neural activity can flow, we might regard it as the streambed of consciousness.
The metaphor is a powerful one. Over a long period of time, in the same way that the water of the stream slowly shapes the bed, neural activity changes the connectome. The two notions of the self – as both the fast-moving, ever-changing stream and the more stable but slowly transforming streambed –  are thus inextricably linked. This book is about the self as the streambed, the self in the connectome – the self that has been neglected for too long.”

The Aftermath, by Jessica Hamzelou

Why are women more than twice as vulnerable to PTSD than men? New evidence suggests that oestrogen may play a role in the disorder. Vasiliki Michopulos at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, is researching genetic and biochemical factors which influence anxiety.

“The horrible event may be over, but you’re held hostage by what happened to you.”

“As we discover how PTSD differs between people, we realise treatments should differ too.”

New Scientist No. 3091, 17th September 2016, p.38-41.

Shadows of the Past by Clare Wilson

Mind reading with electrodes in the brain – it is happening.


Quian Quiroga has been implanting electrodes into the brains of human beings, and monitoring the activity in their hippocampi while they perform memory tasks. They literally watched human memories being formed in real time.

Hugo Spiers at UCL has been monitoring the activity of cells in rats’ hippocampi as they learn to run through mazes. Different cells fire as the rats reach different parts of the maze. By looking at the activity in the rats’ brains, Spiers can tell where they are in the maze. He is reading the rats’ minds with a brain scanner. This can also be done while they are asleep. Is he reading their dreams?

New Scientist No. 3049, 28th November 2015, p. 34-39.