Depression during pregnancy is highly prevalent and has a multitude of potential risks of the offspring. Among confirmed consequences is a higher risk of psychopathology. However, it is unknown how maternal depression may impact the child’s brain to mediate this vulnerability. Here we studied amygdala functioning, using task-based functional MRI, in children aged 6–9 years as a function of prenatal maternal depressive symptoms selected from a prospective population-based sample (The Generation R Study). We show that children exposed to clinically relevant maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy (N = 19) have increased amygdala responses to negative emotional faces compared to control children (N = 20) [F(1,36) 7.02, p = 0.022]. Strikingly, postnatal maternal depressive symptoms, obtained at 3 years after birth, did not explain this relation. Our findings are in line with a model in which prenatal depressive symptoms of the mother are associated with amygdala hyperresponsivity in her offspring, which may represent a risk factor for later-life psychopathology.

, , , ,,
European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology

van der Knaap, N. J., Klumpers, F., El Marroun, H., Mous, S., Schubert, D. (Dirk), Jaddoe, V., … Fernandez, G. (2018). Maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy are associated with amygdala hyperresponsivity in children. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 27(1), 57–64. doi:10.1007/s00787-017-1015-x