Prospective memory (PM) refers to the ability to remember to execute an intended action in the future. For successful PM performance, both top-down strategic monitoring and bottom-up spontaneous retrieval processes need to be appropriately recruited. We assessed PM performance and used fMRI to discover relevant neural correlates and possible predictors for PM performance in 25 postpartum and 26 nulliparous age- And education-matched women. Postpartum women showed decreased PM performance, a higher number of nocturnal awakenings, and lower estradiol level. The postpartum women had decreased functional connectivity (FC) in the right hippocampus and ventral frontoparietal networks (FPN) during retrieval-dominant PM trials relative to maintenance-dominant ongoing trials in the PM block. On multivariate analyses, decreased FC between the right hippocampus and ventral FPN and a higher number of nocturnal awakenings were independent predictors for poor PM performance after adjusting for age, education, estradiol level, and depressive symptoms. On mediation analyses, the estradiol level was found to have an indirect effect on PM accuracy via altered FC as a mediator. This suggests that decreased FC within the spontaneous retrieval-related regions including the right hippocampus and ventral FPN, disrupted sleep rhythms, and decreased estradiol level may contribute to poor PM performance in postpartum women.
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