Universiteit Leiden

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Elseline Hoekzema investigates the impact of pregnancy on the human brain with European grant

Neuroscientist Elseline Hoekzema receives a large European grant from the European Research Council (ERC). This ERC starting grant for promising young researchers allows her to investigate the effects of pregnancy on the brain in detail.

Elseline Hoekzema: 'During pregnancy, a woman is exposed to an unparalleled flood of hormones. Animal studies have shown that these hormones trigger far-reaching changes in the maternal brain and behavior. In previous studies, we discovered that pregnancy renders long-lasting changes in human brain structure.'

Elseline Hoekzema

Brain plasticity

'Pregnancy is a period of unique and drastic brain plasticity. The €1.5 million of the ERC starting grant will allow me to investigate how a woman's brain changes throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period in detail. We will combine advanced neuroimaging with endocrine, psychopedagogic and other biomedical measures to track these changes and the contributing factors. Moreover, we will investigate the implications of these neural changes: what does this mean for the mother and her child?'

Peripartum changes

'We expect that these changes contribute to the emergence of well-known negative peripartum processes such as memory problems and postpartum depression. However, as has been demonstrated in various other mammals, we expect that these neural changes primarily serve an adaptive function that benefits a woman’s transition to motherhood and hereby the infant’s development and possibly other domains. I am looking forward to performing these studies, and I can’t wait to discover the first results.'

Are you a talented early-career scientist who has already produced excellent supervised work, is ready to work independently and shows potential to be a research leader? The ERC Starting Grant could be for you. 
ERC Starting Grants

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