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Perinatal maternal depressive symptoms linked to child brain development

12 May 2019
A young child's brain development will receive a significant boost during playtime, especially if proper attention is paid the baby.

A consistent association exists between perinatal maternal depressive symptoms and child brain development assessed 10 years later, suggests a recent study.

In single-time-point analyses, maternal depressive symptoms at child age 2 months correlated with smaller total gray matter volume and lower global fractional anisotropy (FA), but maternal depressive symptoms assessed prenatally or in childhood did not.

Trajectory analyses showed that gray and white matter volumes were smaller, as well as alterations (ie, lower FA) in white matter microstructure, in children exposed to persistently high levels of maternal depressive symptoms across the perinatal period compared with those who were unexposed.

In addition, the association between postnatal maternal depressive symptoms and childhood attention problems was mediated by gray matter volume differences.

“These results suggest that the postnatal period is a window of vulnerability for adversities such as maternal depressive symptoms,” the authors said.

Embedded in a longitudinal birth cohort in the Netherlands, this study examined associations of exposure to maternal depressive symptoms at different developmental stages from foetal life to preadolescence with child brain development, including volumetrics and white matter microstructure.

In total, 3,469 mother-child pairs with data on maternal depressive symptoms and child neuroimaging at age 10 years were included. Child emotional and behavioural problems were measured at the time of neuroimaging. The association between maternal depressive symptoms and child brain development at each assessment was examined.

To determine the association of maternal depressive symptom patterns over time with child brain development, the authors modeled maternal depressive symptom trajectories across foetal life and childhood.

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