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Office of Neuroscience Research > WUSTL Neuroscience News > Early signs of anxiety, depression may be evident in newborns

Early signs of anxiety, depression may be evident in newborns

From the WUSTL Newsroom...

Early predictors of anxiety and depression may be evident in the brain even at birth, suggests a study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Analyzing brain scans of newborns, the researchers found that the strength and pattern of connections between certain brain regions predicted the likelihood of the babies developing excessive sadness, shyness, nervousness or separation anxiety by age 2. Such symptoms have been linked to clinical depression and anxiety disorders in older children and adults.

The research is published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

“The fact that we could see these connectivity patterns in the brain at birth helps answer a critical question about whether they could be responsible for early symptoms linked to depression and anxiety or whether these symptoms lead to changes in the brain,” said Cynthia Rogers, MD, an assistant professor of child psychiatry. “We have found that already at birth, brain connections may be responsible for the development of problems later in life.”

Initially, Rogers and her team set out to identify differences in functional brain connectivity — the coordination of activity across different parts of the brain — between babies born prematurely and others born at full term. They conducted functional MRI scans in 65 full-term newborns and 57 premature infants born at least 10 weeks early. The latter were scanned on or near their due dates.

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