Focus of research
My research interests focus on brain plasticity in the peripartum period, and in my research group at the Amsterdam UMC we investigate how pregnancy changes the human brain. My previous work includes studies of human and rodent brain plasticity in response to various internal and external triggers, reflecting an interest in the capacity of the brain to change. In the last several years, I have specialized in peripartum brain plasticity and the study of how pregnancy and motherhood alter a woman's brain. Pregnancy represents a monumental life transition and a highly extreme endocrine event, and animal studies have demonstrated reproduction-related neural and behavioral changes that are evident across the lifespan. We have previously shown for the first time that pregnancy renders long-lasting changes in the human brain. In my research group at the Amsterdam UMC, we study how becoming a mother changes the anatomy, microstructure and function of the brain, what biological or other factors are driving these changes and what the functional implications are for the mother-infant dyad. I direct a line of research that investigates this neurobiological transition, first at Leiden University and now at the Amsterdam University Medical Center. Our work on this topic has primarily been supported by the European Research Council (ERC), the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Brain and Behavior Foundation. For more information about our work, see www.hoekzemalab.nl.