Women with a history of previous childbirths show less evident white matter brain ageing

Abstract

Maternal brain adaptations occur in response to pregnancy, but little is known about how parity impacts white matter (WM) microstructure 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 a higher number of previous childbirths was associated with lower WM brain age, in line with previous studies showing less evident grey matter (GM) brain ageing in parous relative to nulliparous women. Both global WM and GM 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 understand how parity influences women’s WM trajectories across the lifespan.

Publication
Under Review