Publication details

Prenatal Stress, Mood, and Gray Matter Volume in Young Adulthood



Year of publication 2019
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source CEREBRAL CORTEX
MU Faculty or unit

Central European Institute of Technology

Keywords European longitudinal study of pregnancy and childhood mood dysregulation; gray matter volume; magnetic resonance imaging; prenatal stress
Description This study aimed to determine whether prenatal stress, measured by the number of stressful life events during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, might relate to mood dysregulation and altered brain structure in young adulthood. Participants included 93 young adults from a community-based birth cohort from the Czech Republic. Information on prenatal stress exposure was collected from their mothers in 1990-1992. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and mood-related data were collected from the young adults in 2015. MRI analyses focused on overall gray matter (GM) volume and GM volume of cortical regions previously associated with major depression. Higher prenatal stress predicted more mood dysregulation, lower overall GM volume, and lower GM volume in mid-dorsolateral frontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and precuneus in young adulthood. We observed no prenatal stress by sex interactions for any of the relations. We conclude that prenatal stress is an important risk factor that relates to worse mood states and altered brain structure in young adulthood irrespective of sex. Our results point to the importance and long-lasting effects of prenatal programming and suggest that offspring of mothers who went through substantial stress during pregnancy might benefit from early intervention that would reduce the odds of mental illness in later life.
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