Mother’s depression affects child’s brain

A new study suggests a mother’s mood may affect her child’s brain development at critical stages in life. Symptoms of depression 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 published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

“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.

Previously, while there was awareness about the association between peri-natal/post-partum depression and negative outcomes in children, this link between maternal depression and abnormal brain structure in preschoolers was not known

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

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