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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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Cinema, Museums Can Keep Older Adults Away From Depression

For the study, the researchers studied more than 2,148 adults above 50

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Depression
Cinema, museums may ward off depression risk in elderly.

Regular exposure to cultural activities like cinema, theatre or museums can keep older adults away from depression, finds a new study.

Depression is a major issue affecting millions of people, especially the elderly.

The study showed that people who saw films, plays or exhibitions every few months had a 32 per cent lower risk of developing depression, with those attending once a month or more having a 48 per cent lower risk.

“People engage with culture for the pure enjoyment of doing so, but we need to be raising awareness of their wider benefits too,” said Daisy Fancourt, Senior Research Associate from the University College London in the UK.

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Depression is a major issue affecting millions of people, especially the elderly. Pixabay

The power of these cultural activities lies in the combination of social interaction, creativity, mental stimulation and gentle physical activity they encourage, according to the study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

If we are starting to feel low or isolated then cultural engagement is something simple that we can do to proactively help with our own mental health before it gets to the point where we need professional medical help, according to Fancourt.

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“However, such activities on their own don’t treat depression. This requires an approach based on the use of talking therapies, complemented by the use of medication where an older person does not respond or when they have more severe depression,” noted Amanda Thompsell from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

For the study, the researchers studied more than 2,148 adults above 50. (IANS)