Thursday, November 17, 2016

Depression during pregnancy is associated with abnormal brain structure in children

ublic Release: 15-Nov-2016
Depression during pregnancy is associated with abnormal brain structure in children
Reports new study in Biological Psychiatry

Depressive symptoms in women during and after pregnancy are associated with reduced thickness of the cortex--the outer layer of the brain responsible for complex thought and behavior--in preschool-age kids, according to a new study published in Biological Psychiatry. The findings suggest that a mother's mood may affect her child's brain development at critical stages in life.

"Mothers generally want to do everything they can to give their offspring the best possible chance of success in life. They often make sure to eat well and to take special vitamins," said John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "This new study now suggests that another thing they may be able to do is to make sure that they are treated for their depression."

Eighteen percent of women experience depression some time during pregnancy, and both perinatal and postpartum depression have been associated with negative outcomes in children. The new study, led by Catherine Lebel of the University of Calgary in Alberta, is the first to report associations between maternal depression and abnormal brain structure in kids at this age.


Women with higher depressive symptoms tended to have children with thinner frontal and temporal areas, cortical regions implicated in tasks involving inhibition and attention control. The researchers also found an association between depressive symptoms and abnormal white matter in the frontal area, the fiber tracts connecting the region to other areas in the brain.

These associations were only found when symptoms occurred during the second trimester and postpartum, suggesting these periods are particularly critical times for child brain development.


Abnormalities in brain structure during critical periods in development have often been associated with negative outcomes, such as learning disabilities and behavioral disorders. Additionally, the brain structure abnormalities identified in this study reflect those found in children with depression or at high risk for developing the disorder, suggesting that these alterations may be why children of mothers with perinatal depression are more vulnerable to depression later in life.


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