Background: Prenatal depressive symptoms have been associated with multiple adverse outcomes. Previously, we demonstrated that prenatal depressive symptoms were associated with impaired growth of the fetus and increased behavioral problems in children aged between 1.5 and 6 years. In this prospective study, we aimed to assess whether prenatal maternal depressive symptoms at 3 years have long-term consequences on brain development in a cohort of children aged 6–10 years. As a contrast, the association of paternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy and brain morphology was assessed to serve as a marker of background confounding due to shared genetic and environmental family factors. Methods: We assessed parental depressive symptoms during pregnancy with the Brief Symptom Inventory. At approximately 8 years of age, we collected structural neuroimaging data, using cortical thickness, surface area, and gyrification as outcomes (n = 654). Results: We found that exposure to prenatal maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy was associated with a thinner superior frontal cortex in the left hemisphere. Additionally, prenatal maternal depressive symptoms were related to larger caudal middle frontal area in the left hemisphere. Maternal depressive symptoms at 3 years were not associated with cortical thickness, surface area, or gyrification in the left and right hemispheres. No effects of paternal depressive symptoms on brain morphology were observed. Conclusions: Prenatal maternal depressive symptoms were associated with differences in brain morphology in children. It is important to prevent, identify, and treat depressive symptoms during pregnancy as it may have long-term consequences on child brain development.

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Keywords brain morphology, depression, magnetic resonance imaging, paternal exposure, prenatal programing
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Journal Depression and Anxiety
Grant This work was funded by the European Commission 7th Framework Programme; grant id h2020/633595 - Understanding the dynamic determinants of glucose homeostasis and social capability to promote Healthy and active aging (DYNAHEALTH)
El Marroun, H, Tiemeier, H.W, Muetzel, R.L, Thijssen, S, van der Knaap, N.J.F, Jaddoe, V.W.V, … White, T.J.H. (2016). PRENATAL EXPOSURE TO MATERNAL AND PATERNAL DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS AND BRAIN MORPHOLOGY: A POPULATION-BASED PROSPECTIVE NEUROIMAGING STUDY IN YOUNG CHILDREN. Depression and Anxiety, 33(7), 658–666. doi:10.1002/da.22524