Nature Mental Health: Positive emotions during pregnancy are linked to a baby's brain development

February 22, 2024  20:17

In a recent study published in Nature Mental Health, scientists examined the relationship between maternal mental health and children's brain development. It turns out that emotional well-being during pregnancy may be an important protective factor for brain development in children.

The study was based on a longitudinal prospective newborn cohort design to examine the relationship between maternal well-being and brain development in 7.5-year-old children using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This age was chosen because it is a key period of nervous system development when significant cognitive processes and brain changes occur.

In addition, the survey included questions about socioeconomic status, relationships with friends and family, life stress, and other topics related to prenatal health and well-being. This information was used to construct an overall socio-environmental disadvantage factor and estimates for four risk domains - personal, interpersonal, socioeconomic, and life stress.

The participant sample included 381 children. The researchers found that more positive maternal emotions prenatally were associated with greater bilateral hippocampal volume in female children, but not in boys. However, maternal positive emotions were not associated with cortical thickness or volume of the thalamus, amygdala, lateral ventricles, or basal ganglia.

These results suggest that there may be a neural basis by which positive emotions during pregnancy are transmitted from the mother to her offspring during early brain development. Of the significantly related outcomes, only changes in the bilateral hippocampus differed between male and female children. This study suggests that ensuring maternal mental health can lead to sustained benefits for offspring in terms of nervous system development.

The authors hypothesized that positive emotions during pregnancy would be associated with significant differences in brain structures such as the amygdala and hippocampus, as well as in functional networks such as default mode and visual networks. Maternal mental health was assessed using the Beck Depression Scale, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, and the Anxiety Scale.

Follow Medicine on Facebook and Twitter

  • Video
  • Event calendar
  • Archive