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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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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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Taking Care of Mental Health Problems in Children, may Boost Parent’s Mental Health Too

When the severity of a teenagers's depression lessened, so did similar symptoms in the parent, regardless of what treatment was used: Study

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walking, was associated with good self-perceived general health
walking, was associated with good self-perceived general health. Pixabay

The bond between parent and child extends far beyond sharing similar looks or behaviours as a new study suggests that treating depression in teenagers may benefit their parents’ mental health too.

The findings suggest that when a teenager’s depression improved through treatment, so did the depression experienced by his or her parents.

“Depression is a massive public health concern that will take a variety of approaches to better manage. We believe our study is among the first to evaluate how the emotional health of a child can impact that of the parents,” said co-author Mark A. Reinecke from the Northwestern University in the US.

For the study, presented at American Psychological Association’s 126th Annual Convention, the research team involved 325 teenagers who had been diagnosed with depression and 325 of their parents or caregivers.

The teenagers were randomly assigned to one of three groups — those who received cognitive behavioural therapy, those who took anti-depressants or those who used a combination of both.

Depression
More young people today are reporting persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. Flickr

The first treatment period ran for nearly one year, with an additional year of follow-up visits, the researchers said.

One-quarter of the parents who participated also reported moderate to severe levels of depression before the treatment period, the researcher added.

The treatment process was not family-based, though some portions included the parent.

The researchers found a positive ripple effect because when the severity of a teenagers’s depression lessened, so did similar symptoms in the parent, regardless of what treatment was used.

Also Read: Molecule Deficiency May Help Diagnose Severe Depression

“More young people today are reporting persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness and suicidal thoughts,” said Kelsey R. Howard from the varsity.

“This research may help health care providers as we grapple as a nation with how to address these alarming trends,” Howard noted. (IANS)