Background: It is well known that cognitive and emotional changes occur during pregnancy, but little is known about their magnitude or their time of occurrence and recovery. During pregnancy memory is one of the most impaired cognitive functions. Although long-term aspects of memory have been investigated, other aspects of memory have not yet been explored (i.e., navigational memory and reaching memory).
Case presentation. Here we describe the changes in reaching and walking memory that occurred during pregnancy and one year after delivery in an Italian female military pilot (Case 1) with high spatial ability. In memory tests she showed a classical dissociation between performance in reaching and walking distance, which indicated a failure of working memory, learning, and storage in reaching space. This suggests that her expertise served as a protective factor mitigating her low walking memory performance, and saving the topographical component.We compared her performance with that of two non-pregnant control groups (i.e., women pilots and non-pilots) and found that Case 1's reaching memory performance was significantly worse than that of the control groups. Even one year postpartum, Case 1's performance was not yet the same as that of the other pilots.
Conclusions: These findings contribute to our knowledge of the specific, as yet unexplored, aspects of memory deficits in women pilots during pregnancy and postpartum and suggest the need for better neuropsychological assessment before these women return to work in operational environments.
- Human navigation
- Sex differences
- Spatial cognition
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)