Depressive Symptoms in Mothers Affect Brain Structure of Children

Children of mothers who suffer from depression have an enlarged amygdala, the region of the brain connected to emotional reactions.

According to a recent study performed by researchers from the University of Montreal, children of mothers who suffer from depression have an enlarged amygdala, the region of the brain connected to emotional reactions.

Sonia Lupien, a researcher of the study, stated that these findings show “that growing up with a depressed mother is associated with enlarged amygdala.”

The amygdala is responsible designating information and events emotional significance. Further, this area of the brain affects how a person will react to a potential risks.

The researchers focused on children whose mothers displayed symptoms of depression throughout their lives. They took MRI scans of the children, who were 10 years old at the time.

They found that the brains of the children were sensitive to the quality of care they received.

Interestingly, the study authors cited previous studies which found comparable results in the brains of children who were adopted into a family after being raised first in an orphanage.

"We do not know if the enlargement that we have observed is the result of long-term exposure to lower quality care,” reported Lupien.

The results strongly indicate that "the brain may be highly responsive to the environment during early development and confirms the importance of early intervention to help children facing adversity," Lupien said.

"Initiatives such as prenatal and infancy nurse home visits and enriched day care environments could mitigate the effects of parental care on the developing brain," she concluded.

This research was published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.