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.

Amygdala, Child, Depression, fMRI, Prenatal,
European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
This work was funded by the European Commission 7th Framework Programme; grant id fp7/212652 - “Effect of diet on the mental performance of children” (NUTRIMENTHE)
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology

van der Knaap, N.J.F, Klumpers, F, El Marroun, H, Mous, S.E, Schubert, D. (Dirk), Jaddoe, V.W.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