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A history of previous childbirths is linked to women's white matter brain age in midlife and older age

By Irene Voldsbekk, Claudia Barth, Ivan I. Maximov, Tobias Kaufmann, Dani Beck, Genevieve Richard, Torgeir Moberget, Lars T. Westlye, Ann-Marie Glasoe de Lange

Posted 22 Nov 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.11.20.391698

Maternal brain adaptations occur in response to pregnancy, but little is known about how parity impacts white matter (WM) and WM ageing trajectories later in life. Utilising global and regional brain-age prediction based on multi-shell diffusion MRI data, we investigated the association between previous childbirths and WM brain age in 8,895 women in the UK Biobank cohort (age range = 54 - 81 years). The results showed that number of previous childbirths was negatively associated with WM brain age, potentially indicating a protective effect ofparity on brain WM later in life. Both global WM and grey matter brain age estimates showed unique contributions to the association with previous childbirths, suggesting partly independent processes. Corpus callosum contributed uniquely to the global WM association with previous childbirths, and showed a stronger relationship relative to several other tracts. While our findings demonstrate a link between reproductive history and brain WM characteristics later in life, longitudinal studies are required to establish causality and determine how parity may influence women's WM trajectories across the lifespan.

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