Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Depression in pregnant mothers may alter the pattern of brain development in their babies

Date:
December 4, 2013
Source:
Elsevier
Summary:
Depression is a serious mental illness that has many negative consequences for sufferers. But depression among pregnant women may also have an impact on their developing babies. Children of depressed parents are at an increased risk of developing depression themselves, a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. These children also display alterations in the amygdala, a brain structure important for the regulation of emotion and stress.

Depression is a serious mental illness that has many negative consequences for sufferers. But depression among pregnant women may also have an impact on their developing babies.
Credit: Tatyana Gladskih / Fotolia

Depression is a serious mental illness that has many negative consequences for sufferers. But depression among pregnant women may also have an impact on their developing babies.

Related Articles


Children of depressed parents are at an increased risk of developing depression themselves, a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. These children also display alterations in the amygdala, a brain structure important for the regulation of emotion and stress. However, prior work in this area has assessed children years after birth, which means that the timing of these alterations has remained unidentified.

Researchers led by Dr. Anqi Qiu at the National University of Singapore now have the answers, with their new work published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry.

They set out to perform a direct analysis of prenatal maternal depression and variation in the fetal development of the amygdala. To do so, they recruited 157 pregnant women who completed a depression questionnaire during their 26th week of pregnancy. Later, within two weeks of birth, newborns underwent magnetic resonance imaging scans to ascertain the structure of their amygdala and diffusion tensor imaging scans to determine the integrity of the amygdala's pattern of neural connections.

The volume of the amygdala did not differ between the infants regardless of their mothers' depression status. However, the researchers found significantly reduced structural connectivity (i.e., lower fractional anisotropy and lower axial diffusivity) in the right amygdala of infants of mothers with high levels of depression symptoms. In other words, the amygdala's microstructure (e.g., its "wiring") was abnormal in the infants born to depressed mothers.

This important finding suggests that a propensity for abnormal amygdala function, a feature of mood and anxiety disorders, may be transmitted from mother to child during fetal life. This finding suggests one new path that a history of maternal depression might contribute to a life-long increase in the vulnerability to mental illness.

This study provides added evidence supporting the notion that mental health screening should be included among the medical evaluations that women undergo when they discover that they are pregnant. Indeed, the authors conclude that their study supports that "interventions targeting maternal depression should begin early in pregnancy."

"Attention to maternal health during pregnancy is an extremely high priority for society for many reasons," added Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "The notion that maternal depression might influence the brain development of their babies is very concerning. The good news is that this risk might be reduced by systematic screening of pregnant women for depression and initiating effective treatment."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Elsevier. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Anne Rifkin-Graboi, Jordan Bai, Helen Chen, Waseem Bak’r Hameed, Lit Wee Sim, Mya Thway Tint, Birit Leutscher-Broekman, Yap-Seng Chong, Peter D. Gluckman, Marielle V. Fortier, Michael J. Meaney, Anqi Qiu. Prenatal Maternal Depression Associates with Microstructure of Right Amygdala in Neonates at Birth. Biological Psychiatry, 2013; 74 (11): 837 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.06.019

Cite This Page:

Elsevier. "Depression in pregnant mothers may alter the pattern of brain development in their babies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131204090956.htm>.
Elsevier. (2013, December 4). Depression in pregnant mothers may alter the pattern of brain development in their babies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131204090956.htm
Elsevier. "Depression in pregnant mothers may alter the pattern of brain development in their babies." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131204090956.htm (accessed January 31, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NFL Concussions Down; Still on Parents' Minds

NFL Concussions Down; Still on Parents' Minds

AP (Jan. 30, 2015) The NFL announced this week that the number of game concussions dropped by a quarter over last season. Still, the dangers of the sport still weigh on players, and parents&apos; minds. (Jan. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Shows Newborn Chicks Count From Left to Right Just Like Humans

Study Shows Newborn Chicks Count From Left to Right Just Like Humans

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) Researchers for the first time identified human&apos;s innate preference for associating low and high numbers with the left and right respectively in another species. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Best Mood Elevating, Feel Good Shakes & Smoothies

Best Mood Elevating, Feel Good Shakes & Smoothies

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) You can elevate your mood by having a meal in a glass. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) offers the best &apos;feel good&apos; smoothies and shakes chock full of depression-relieving ingredients...including apples, berries, lemons, cucumbers, papaya, kiwi, spinach, kale, whey protein, matcha, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Poll Says Firstborn Is Responsible, Youngest Is Funnier

Poll Says Firstborn Is Responsible, Youngest Is Funnier

Newsy (Jan. 30, 2015) According to a poll out of the U.K., eldest siblings feel more responsible and successful than their younger siblings. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins