Cognitive costs of reproduction: life-historytrade-offs explain cognitive decline duringpregnancy in women

Anna Ziomkiewicz , Szymon Wichary , Grażyna Jasieńska


Life-history theory predicts that access to limited resources leads to trade-offs between competing body functions. Women, who face higher costs of reproduction when compared to men, should be especially vulnerable to these trade-offs. We propose the ‘cognitive costs of reproduction hypothesis’, which states that energy trade-offs imposed by reproduction may lead to a decline in maternal cognitive function during gestation. In particular, we hypothesize that the decline in cognitive function frequently observed during pregnancy is associated with the allocation of resources between the competing energetic requirements of the mother’s brain and the developing foetus. Several distinctive anatomical and physiological features including a high metabolic rate of the brain, large infant size, specific anatomical features of the placenta and trophoblast, and the lack of maternal control over glucose flow through the placenta make the occurrence of these trade-offs likely. Herein, we review several lines of evidence for trade-offs between gestation and cognition that are related to: (i) energy metabolism during reproduction; (ii) energy metabolism of the human brain; (iii) links between energy metabolism and cognitive function; and (iv) links between gestation and cognitive function. We also review evidence for the important roles of cortisol, corticotropin-releasing hormone and sex hormones in mediating the effects of gestation on cognition, and we discuss possible neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the observed effects. The evidence supports the view that energy trade-offs between foetal growth and maternal endocrine and brain function lead to changes in maternal cognition, and that this phenomenon is mediated by neuroendocrine mechanisms involving the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis, brainstem nucleus locus coeruleus and hippocampus
Author Anna Ziomkiewicz
Anna Ziomkiewicz,,
, Szymon Wichary (Wydział Psychologii)
Szymon Wichary,,
- Wydział Psychologii
, Grażyna Jasieńska
Grażyna Jasieńska,,
Journal seriesBiological Reviews, ISSN 1464-7931, e-ISSN 1469-185X, (N/A 200 pkt)
Issue year2019
Publication size in sheets0.5
Keywords in Englishmaternal cognitive function, foetal development, pregnancy, energy trade-off, energy allocation, glucose, cortisol
ASJC Classification1100 General Agricultural and Biological Sciences; 1300 General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Languageen angielski
Cognitive costs of reproduction life-history.pdf 648.71 KB
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Oswiadczenie_S.Wichary_Cognitive costs of.pdf 213.4 KB
Score (nominal)200
Score sourcejournalList
Publication indicators Scopus SNIP (Source Normalised Impact per Paper): 2016 = 3.251; WoS Impact Factor: 2017 = 11.7 (2) - 2017=11.996 (5)
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