Study shows mother’s stress can affect baby’s brain

Pregnant woman used to illustrate the story
Pregnant woman used to illustrate the story

New evidence from fetal brain scans has shown that a mother’s stress during pregnancy can change the neural connectivity in the brain of her unborn child, potentially affecting the baby’s brain functions.

Moriah Thomason, an assistant professor of Wayne State University, presented this new finding on Monday at the 25th meeting for the Cognitive Neuroscience Society in Boston.

He explained that research in newborns and older children to understand prenatal influences has been confounded by the postnatal environment.

But recent advancements in fetal imaging allowed researchers to gain insight into a critical time period in brain development never previously accessible.

Using fetal resting-state FMRI or functional magnetic resonance imaging, they examined functional connectivity in 47 human fetuses scanned between the 30th and 37th week of gestation.

Conducting in-utero brain scans are challenging because of the always wriggling babies.

Thomason’s team recruited the participating mothers from a low-resource and high-stress urban setting, with many reporting high-levels of depression, anxiety, worry, and stress.

They found that mothers reporting high stress had fetuses with a reduced efficiency in how their neural functional systems are organised.

It is the first time imaging has shown a direct influence of maternal stress on fetal brain development, independent of influences of the postnatal environment.

“The major thrill is that we have demonstrated what has long been theorised, but not yet observed in a human, which is that the stress of a mother during her pregnancy is reflected in connectional properties of her child’s developing brain,” Mr Thomason said.

The researchers found that the cerebellum played a central role in the observed effects, suggesting it may be especially vulnerable to the effects of prenatal or early life stress.

The cerebellum has the highest density of glucocorticoid receptors, which are involved in stress responses, than any other place in the brain.


PT Mag Campaign AD

All rights reserved. This material and any other material on this platform may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, written or distributed in full or in part, without written permission from PREMIUM TIMES.

Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.


TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...

BE THE FIRST TO KNOW! Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required


Now available on

  Premium Times Android mobile applicationPremium Times iOS mobile applicationPremium Times blackberry mobile applicationPremium Times windows mobile application