Prenatal maternal depression associates with microstructure of right amygdala in neonates at birth

Anne Rifkin-Graboi, Jordan Bai, Helen Chen, Waseem Bak R. Hameed, Lit Wee Sim, Mya Thway Tint, Birit Leutscher-Broekman, Yap Seng Chong, Peter D. Gluckman, Marielle V. Fortier, Michael J. Meaney, Anqi Qiu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background Antenatal maternal cortisol levels associate with alterations in the amygdala, a structure associated with emotion regulation, in the offspring. However, because offspring brain and behavior are commonly assessed years after birth, the timing of such maternal influences is unclear. This study aimed to examine the association between antenatal maternal depressive symptomatology and neonatal amygdala volume and microstructure and thus establish evidence for the transgenerational transmission of vulnerability for affective disorders during prenatal development. Methods Our study recruited Asian mothers at 10 to 13 weeks pregnancy and assessed maternal depression at 26 weeks gestation using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Structural magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging were performed with 157 nonsedated, 6- to 14-day-old newborns and then analyzed to extract the volume, fractional anisotropy, and axial diffusivity values of the amygdala. Results Adjusting for household income, maternal age, and smoking exposure, postconceptual age at magnetic resonance imaging, and birth weight, we found significantly lower fractional anisotropy (p =.009) and axial diffusivity (p =.028), but not volume (p =.993), in the right amygdala in the infants of mothers with high compared with those with low-normal Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale scores. Conclusions The results reveal a significant relation between antenatal maternal depression and the neonatal microstructure of the right amygdala, a brain region closely associated with stress reactivity and vulnerability for mood anxiety disorders. These findings suggest the prenatal transmission of vulnerability for depression from mother to child and that interventions targeting maternal depression should begin early in pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)837-844
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Volume74
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013

Cite this

Rifkin-Graboi, A., Bai, J., Chen, H., Hameed, W. B. R., Sim, L. W., Tint, M. T., ... Qiu, A. (2013). Prenatal maternal depression associates with microstructure of right amygdala in neonates at birth. Biological Psychiatry, 74(11), 837-844. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.06.019