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Maternal Depression May Affect Child’s Brain Development at Critical Stages in Life

Women with higher depressive symptoms tended to have children with thinner frontal and temporal areas

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Representational image. Pixabay
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Toronto, November 16, 2016: Depressive symptoms in women during and after pregnancy are linked to reduced thickness of the cortex — the outer layer of the brain responsible for complex thought and behaviour — in preschool-age kids, says a new study.

“Our findings underscore the importance of monitoring and supporting mental health in mothers not just in the post-partum period, but also during pregnancy,” said lead researcher Catherine Lebel of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

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The findings, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, suggest that a mother’s mood may affect her child’s brain development at critical stages in life.

Eighteen percent of women experience depression some time during pregnancy, and both peri-natal and post-partum depression have been associated with negative outcomes in children.

But the associations between maternal depression and abnormal brain structure in kids at this age was not known.

For the study, the researchers screened 52 women for depressive symptoms during each trimester of pregnancy and a few months after the child was born.

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The women ranged in the presence of symptoms, some with no or few symptoms, and some meeting the screening criteria for depression.

When the children reached about 2.5 to 5 years of age, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure their brain structure.

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.

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These associations were only found when symptoms occurred during the second trimester and post-partum, 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 behavioural disorders, the researchers said. (IANS)

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Study: Depression Can Be Cut by Ketamine

Ketamine, the drug can be helpful to cut off depression and suicidality

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A man in depression. Pixabay

Recreational drug Ketamine is likely to have fast-acting benefits in treating symptoms of depression as well as reducing suicidal thoughts, say researchers, including one of an Indian-origin.

The findings of the trial, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, showed use of Ketamine, also licensed as an anaesthetic, through a nasal spray, led to significant improvements in depressive symptoms and reduction in suicidal thoughts in the first 24 hours.

A woman in depression.
A woman suffering from depression.

Esketamine could be an important treatment to bridge the gap as it can help in the rapid treatment compared to the delayed effects of most common antidepressants, which take four to six weeks to become fully effective, said Jaskaran B. Singh, from the Janssen Research & Development in San Diego, US.

The results support nasal spray esketamine as a possible effective rapid treatment for depressive symptoms in patients assessed to be at imminent risk for suicide, the researchers noted.

For the study, a small group of participants randomly assigned to one of two groups – either receiving esketamine or placebo twice a week for four weeks, and found a significant improvement in depression scores and decreased suicidal ideation in the esketamine group compared to the placebo group at four hours and at 24 hours.

Also Read: Depression Can Negatively Impact Heart Patients

However, at 25 days, the effects had levelled out.

While there esketamine dependence or misuse was not observed in the trial, the researchers suggested for effective controls on the distribution and use of ketamine.

They argued that steps to control the use of ketamine would not be aimed at preventing its use for beneficial purposes but would allow for treatment to “continue to be available to those with need, while the population that is at-risk for abuse is protected from an epidemic of misuse.”  IANS