Prenatal maternal anxiety causes disturbances in fetal brain
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Maternal psychological distress during pregnancy is associated with adverse obstetric outcomes and neuropsychiatric deficits in children. Currently unavailable in vivo interrogation of fetal brain function could provide critical insights into the onset and timing of altered neurodevelopmental trajectories. Findings from the study, an association was found between prenatal maternal anxiety and disturbances in fetal brain functional connectivity, suggesting altered fetal programming. Early-onset of functional deviations suggests the need for more widespread screening of pregnant women for symptoms of anxiety.

This study analyzed 59 resting-state functional connectivity magnetic resonance image data sets from the fetuses. Mean (SD) scores for the questionnaires were as follows: Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory, 26.66; Spielberger Trait Anxiety Inventory, 28.09; Perceived Stress Scale, 9.27, and Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale 3.24. Prenatal maternal anxiety scores measured using the Spielberger Trait and State Anxiety Inventories were associated with differences in fetal connectivity. Interhemispheric connections, such as those involving the parietofrontal and occipital association cortices, were associated with reduced maternal prenatal anxiety, and those between the brainstem and sensorimotor areas were associated with higher anxiety scores.

In this cohort study, alterations in late second- to third-trimester fetal brain functional connectivity were associated with maternal anxiety. Maternal anxiety and fetal connectivity correlations either decreased or increased depending on the networks involved. Interhemispheric connections, such as those involving the medial frontal regions and basal ganglia, were found to be weakened. In contrast, connections such as those between the brainstem and sensorimotor areas were strengthened in association with higher trait anxiety scores. Some networks were associated with both trait and state anxiety and overlapped, whereas some were distinct to 1 type. Areas associated with salience network, DMN, and central executive network were commonly implicated. These findings suggest an association between altered fetal programming in fetuses and maternal anxiety and the need for mental health surveillance and interventions for pregnant women.

Source:https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2773772?resultClick=3
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