Pregnancy carries enormous changes in the psychological and neurophysiological domains. It has been suggested that pregnant women undergo a cognitive reorganization aimed at increasing the salience of social stimuli (i.e., the tendency of social cues to capture observer's attention, so that their processing results prioritized). The goal of the present work was to systematically review the empirical evidence of a change in face processing during pregnancy. Moreover, we explored whether face processing is associated with antenatal depression and anxiety and the extent to which this is part of a potential mechanism to explain detrimental effects of maternal psychopathology on infant outcomes. We identified 19 relevant studies and discussed them based on their methodological qualities. The results of the review suggest that even though it is not possible to draw firm conclusions, pregnancy is likely to be a plasticity window for face processing at the behavioral and neural levels. Evidence confirms the detrimental effect of depression and anxiety on face processing during pregnancy. Clinical implications for parenting interventions are discussed.
- Brain plasticity