DOI: 10.1101/492017Dec 10, 2018Paper

Maternal brain gain: enlarged representation of the peripersonal space in pregnancy

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Flavia CardiniJane Elizabeth Aspell


Our ability to maintain a coherent bodily self despite continuous changes within and outside our body relies on the highly flexible multisensory representation of the body, and of the space surrounding it: the peripersonal space (PPS). The aim of our study was to investigate whether during pregnancy - when extremely rapid changes in body size and shape occur - a likewise rapid plastic reorganization of the neural representation of the PPS occurs. We used an audio-tactile integration task to measure the PPS boundary at different stages of pregnancy. We found that in the second trimester of pregnancy and postpartum women did not show differences in their PPS size as compared to the control group (non-pregnant women). However, in the third trimester the PPS was larger than the controls' PPS and the shift between representation of near and far space was more gradual. We therefore conclude that during pregnancy the brain adapts to the sudden bodily changes, by expanding the representation of the space around the body. This may represent a mechanism to protect the vulnerable abdomen from injury from surrounding objects.

Related Concepts

Neuronal Plasticity
Pregnant Women
Anatomical Space Structure
Surrounding (Qualifier Value)

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